First Night: Primal Scream, Astoria, London

Like a Stones tribute band, only without the knowing humour
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The Independent Culture

It was only rock and roll but, like The Rolling Stones, they still liked it. Having explored southern-fried influences and dark electro vibes on recent albums, Primal Scream have returned to the comforting bosom of unreconstructed boogie.

2002's Aimless Evil Heat ran the gamut between Kraut rock and the stormy layers of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields.

This preview of new album Riot City Blues showed the Scream at their most carefree and primitive since the trad Give Out But Don't Give In. Though while that was the sound of the Stones in Memphis, they have now adopted the boozy party vibe of The Faces.

Indeed, even without the mandolin of the single version, the opening number "Country Girl" chugged along like a robust hoedown. "Suicide Sally And Johnny Guitar" was as innovative as Bill Haley's Comets, though the more expansive "When The Bomb Drops" showed the difference former Stone Roses bassist Mani has made.

While Give Out relied on session musicians, now the band could dictate their feel. Old favourites were stripped down to their basics. Sixties cult heroes Thirteenth Floor Elevators' "Slip Inside This House", given an acid work-out on the Scream's classic Screamadelica, came in a more respectful garage style. Likewise, John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" was just as vibrant.

After his combative appearance at last year's Glastonbury, singer Bobby Gillespie was on his best behaviour, befitting his garb of a plantation gent. Either side of him it was a night for guitarists. Andrew Innes provided fuzz while Robert Young, replacing the aforementioned Shields, pulled out some wickedly dirty riffs. Where Give Out was limp, new songs shone with Martin Duffy's barroom piano and Mani's bright basslines. It was the band's passion that enabled those numbers to stand beside the shadowy technoid funk of "Kill All Hippies".

As ever, the band's problem was Gillespie's lyrics, as cliche-ridden as a battered leather jacket. Without any effects overload, the band sounded doubly anachronistic on new material. It is difficult to sing about sin when you can buy king-size rolling papers with impunity.

Highlights, though, were plentiful. "Moving On Up" remained one of the best fusions of British grit and gospel euphoria, while "Jailbird" contained a swagger you could not achieve in mere pastiche.

Nor were politics forgotten. Despite their debauched image, the band have attached themselves to such tricky causes as Palestine and unjustly imprisoned Satpal Ram. In this vein, a venomous "Swastika Eyes" showed them at their most focused.

At other times, the Scream did sound like a Stones tribute band, albeit without the knowing wink and knockabout humour. Instead, they communicated a clear-eyed idealism and unstoppable self-belief. For a second encore, the band reprised the forthcoming single and the well-loved "Rocks", which went down just as well as they did before.

After many makeovers this showing was more of an affirmation.