Primal Scream

Glasgow's finest bring the house down at St George's Market

‘I can’t go back to the place I was before,’ sings Bobby Gillespie, his eyes screwed up behind his trademark lank black hair in an attempt at sincerity, though after watching Primal Scream at Belfast St George’s Market his statement is difficult to believe.

Having gone through more career changes than Madonna – from C86 originals to fey indie pop kids, champions of house to technoclash noise terrorists – Primal Scream have returned to their mid-1990s incarnation as a good time, deep south soaked, rock ‘n’ roll band.

Latest opus, Beautiful Future, has seen them rediscover their love of the Rolling Stones – an inspiration that first surfaced on 1994’s generally derided Give Out But Don’t Give Up - and here the rock 'n' roll swagger of old favourites ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’ sit neatly alongside new tracks like ‘Can’t Go Back’ and ‘Necro Hex Blues’.

Primal Scream have never been a band afraid of looking a bit silly (as anyone who’s seen Gillespie’s polka dot shirt on the cover of debut Sonic Flower Groove can attest), so it’s no great surprise when Mani, Andrew Innes and Gillespie stride onto the Market stage sporting the kind of tight fitting leathers that most men in their late 40s would opt to mothball.

They may not have armadillos in their pants but the amps certainly go to 11, creating a hypnotic – if occasionally, as on the spiky, snare filled funk workout ‘Uptown’, ear splitting – wall of sound that fills the Market’s cavernous spaces.

Rarely a man of few words, Gillespie is surprisingly quiet, confining himself to the cursory ‘Hello, Belfast’. Not that the scattergun politics on sonic maelstrom ‘Swastika Eyes’ - all whirring guitars, aggressive synths, snarling vocals and anti-American tirades - really needs any added polemic.

Few bands have lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous as often as Primal Scream, though thankfully tonight is filled with the highlights of their peripatetic career. The joyful soul of ‘Movin’ On Up’ and the acid haze of ‘Higher than the Sun’ provide euphoric counterpoints to any excess of rock and roll, while the crowd treat the Nashville drenched ‘Country Girl’ as an excuse for some impromptu line dancing.

Primal Scream may not be the future of popular music, but after all these years they can still put on a show worth shouting about. Now that’s rock and roll recidivism at its very best. 

Peter Geoghegan