The last we heard of Primal Scream they were doing the nostalgia thing. Two years ago, touring the 20th anniversary of 'Screamadelica' through an increasingly cavernous series of venues and festivals. But following as it did from 2006's enjoyable but astonishingly derivative 'Riot City Blues' and 2008's generally weak 'Beautiful Future', it did make you wonder. Then last year when bassist Mani left for pastures old, you were left to wonder some more.
You wondered exactly what Primal Scream would now become. Were they on the verge of becoming their own tribute act. A spent force, reduced to churning out "the hits" in stadium after stadium? Sure, recently Bobby Gillespie has talked a good fight with regard to the new album ('More Light', due out in May), but he's always been the bullish sort. And it's a thin line between bullish and bullshit.
But on tonight's evidence the confidence isn't misplaced. The 2013 vintage Primal Scream aren't struggling. Okay, large parts of the show did still bask in past glories, but it probably was churlish to expect otherwise. It's a bit contrary, even for the Scream, to spend the entirety of a charity concert in front of an audience who still really just want to get loaded working the kinks out of new material, but when they arrived the tracks from 'More Light' didn't sound like a band stuck in a rut.
'Relativity' is a sprawling, psychedelic flecked number, driven by a motorik pulse and surrounded by swirling organs and sheets of jagged guitars. It breaks down into a slower, more spiritual(ized) coda, accompanied by Gillespie dancing like a deflating bouncy castle. 'Culturecide' displays signs of the embittered attack of 'XTMNTR', a bit like a version of Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start The Fire' recorded in an East German abandoned ice factory, even if it does conclude with a baffling flute solo.
'It's Alright, It's OK' goes pretty much exactly how you'd imagine a Primal Scream song called 'It's Alright, It's OK' should go - Blues-y, Stones-y, and with a refrain which goes “Oooh-la-la-la” in a way you feel almost duty bound to sing along to – but it's delivered with a strutting classicism that means you can't help but smile.
The past glories, well, they sound glorious. The songs from 'Screamdelica' ('Loaded', 'Slip Inside This House', 'Come Together') remain properly euphoric. 'Damaged' is genuinely poignant, 'Shoot Speed/Kill Light' is hypergalactic, and 'Swastika Eyes', despite now being of an age where it's developing hair in places where it previously didn't have hair, is as magnificently coruscating a mass of noise, as ever.
It's questionable whether they need to play new single '2013' twice, given it's probably the weakest of all the new songs, and it's almost definitely getting to the stage where 'Country Girl' is a better version of 'Rocks' than 'Rocks' is, but neither was sufficient to dissuade you of the notion that this is a band in rude, rollocking health.
Words by Tim Lee