Primal Scream, Olympia, London
Blast from the past ends on a high
Tuesday 30 November 2010
There is a rather cynical view that special shows, such as this one, that "revisit" an album are the equivalent of a reunion gig for bands who never actually got round to breaking up. Yet Primal Scream have a pretty good excuse to revisit Screamadelica, their seminal 1991 record and the first ever winner of the Mercury Music Prize, given that some of the songs on the album have never been played live before.
If the chance to hear one of the greatest albums to be produced by a British band wasn't enough, Primal Scream also make the laudable decision to perform as their own support – perhaps Bobby Gillespie wants to remind people that Screamadelica is just one of their nine records. There is a slight problem with this, however; as they launch into "Accelerator" there are still hordes of people streaming through the doors. The result is that the subsequent greatest hits set that they perform feels more like a warm-up for the main event than they probably hoped for.
The subdued atmosphere is not helped by the venue. Basically a small arena, the Olympia may not be as large as somewhere like Earls Court but it has the same ability to suck the life out a show. Add to that the fact that it is so cavernous many in the crowd keep their winter coats on for much of the night – it has to be one of the only venues to have a coffee shop inside – and you can't help but question why a special show like this is not taking place in one of London's more intimate venues.
Things pick up when a siren signals the start of "Swastika Eyes". Followed by the retro rock'n'roll of "Rocks", it provides a storming end to a first half that simply took too long to get going.
They return half-an-hour later, and as the opening guitar riff of "Movin' On Up" begins, the show moves up another gear, approaching something transcendental when the gospel choir joins in on the joyful chorus.
After the first three songs, however, the set-list diverges from the album's tracklisting. It seems a bizarre decision, and one that goes against the point of the night. Surely the idea is not just to play old songs, but to perform them together as a unified work.
The new order also means that the pace of the set is out of step with the more chilled tracks grouped together in the middle showing that come-down songs lose their impact when divorced from their preceding highs. Still, there's no better song to reinvigorate a deflated atmosphere than "Loaded", and an audience that was previously listening respectfully is dancing away once the voice of Peter Fonda rings out.
They leave "Come Together" until last. Tonight this 10-minute masterpiece is simply epic. Perhaps being able to play these two songs at the end is the reason why Primal Scream decide to rearrange the original tracklisting. Whatever the purpose it ensures that the audience head home buzzing – even if for most of the night, the highs were simply too inconsistent.
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