Primal Scream - Screamadelica Live
For those of us who fawned over it in our youth, it’s hard to believe Screamadelica is 20 years old. The deserved winner of the first ever Mercury Music Prize, it was, at the time, a past and future facing odyssey through rock ‘n’ roll, house, dub, jazz and ambient, and a fitting start or end to any party. On the 26th of November 2010, at the Olympia in London, the album was played live in its entirety for the first time, a warm up for further anniversary shows in 2011. This DVD captures that event and the preceding brief ‘rock and roll’ set.
Screamadelica is often criticised as being more the work of visionary collaborators than Primal Scream themselves. Inarguably, two of the key tracks, 'Loaded' and 'Higher Than the Sun', owe a huge debt to their producers. The former, Andrew Weatherall’s remix of the band’s trad ballad 'I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have', was the track that saw their status change from indie to dance band, while the backdrop to the latter is a blissful electronic soundscape engineered by The Orb. The obvious question is, given all the studio tinkering and the amount credited to outsiders, does it work live as played by the band?
The answer is mostly. The songs that were built for guitars and drums, 'Movin’ On Up' and gorgeously brittle ballad 'Damaged', fare well, at least if you accept Bobby Gillespie’s endearing limitations as a vocalist. However, 'Slip Inside This House', on record a triumph of Weatherall’s heavy production and the decision to bury snarled vocals deep in the mix, just doesn’t work as well live. Neither does 'Don’t Fight It, Feel It', a house anthem which really doesn’t benefit from added guitar. Similarly, 'Higher Than The Sun', great during its opening and dub section, should have faded rather than been extended into a funky jam. It’s a shame, especially as the band are wise enough to keep the stripped nature of 'I’m Comin' Down' and 'Shine Like Stars'; both lovely here.
Although the album is played in full, it’s not played in order. For the sake of a euphoric climax, 'Loaded' and 'Come Together' are saved till last. A problem? I suppose it could be if you enjoyed the journey element of the record, roughly structured as a euphoric first half and a more downtempo second.
In contrast to the enjoyable but flawed Screamadelica performance, the rock and roll set is a blast, whether it be those Stones tribute tracks ('Jailbird', 'Rocks'), the psychedelia-tinged 'Burning Wheel' or the angry, siren-fuelled electro-rock of 'Swastika Eyes'. Only 'Suicide Bomb' falls flat, but, hey, it’s a song so unmemorable that I can’t quite remember off the top of my head which latter day Primal Scream album it’s from anyway. The constant strobing in the rock set also covers up a certain lack of atmosphere and makes the annoyingly random moments of slow motion less noticeable.
Fans of the band should be satisfied with this DVD, but those wishing to convince the uninitiated that Screamadelica is a work of genius may want to stick to the original album.