Screamadelica Live (DVD)
Eagle Vision, 2011
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/20/2011
Back in 1991, when Primal Scream released Screamadelica, I was sent a cassette of it to review for our college’s newspaper. All I remember of that review was that I wasn’t particularly kind to the tape; I never pursued checking out anything else that Bobby Gillespie and crew put out.
Some readers wonder why reviews open with “I never liked this band, but I listened to this anyway.” What would possess the writer to even bother with a review? My answer is simple: I suddenly found a copy of Screamadelica Live, the latest release from Primal Scream, in my mail. Unsolicited. With the publicist asking me for a review. Well, when in Rome…
And, to my surprise, I liked it…somewhat.
Performing Screamadelica in its entirety for the first time, Gillespie and crew (with more than a little help from films created by Jim Lambie) do bring a whole new level of appreciation to the music, even if it eventually does fall into a bit of ambient shoegazing near the midpoint of the show. But seeing the different levels of sound, from a brass band to a gospel choir, making up the show, and coupled with Gillespie possibly being the least provocative frontman in rock history, it did pique my interest in both the initial album and Primal Scream. And if you think about it, isn’t that what an album or DVD should do?
Gillespie often tries to blend more into the whole scene, only stepping forward when it seems like he absolutely has to. By doing this, Gillespie, intentionally or not, allows the focus to be not on himself, but on the entirety of the Primal Scream experience. This proves to be a wise decision, as it allows the viewer to really take in everything that is happening, and to focus on the musicianship piece by piece. (That is, when the camera doesn’t unexpectedly go to a slow-motion shot – why they would do this, I have no idea, but it proved to be annoying as hell.)
The opening trio of songs (“Movin’ On Up,” “Slip Inside This House,” and “Don’t Fight It, Feel It”) all made me sit up and wonder if I had missed something when I first reviewed Screamadelica 20 years ago, or if I had perhaps grown in maturity as a listener. Paired with Lambie’s films, the scene that was created was pleasingly surreal – the opening film before the music starts must be seen to be believed.
The momentum, though, isn’t the easiest to maintain, and some songs like “Inner Flight” and “Higher Than The Sun” tend to drag on a bit, sapping the energy from the initial rush. Fortunately, the closing duo of “Loaded” and “Come Together” successfully seals the deal for Primal Scream. Especially noteworthy is how all the participants slowly disassociate themselves from the music, until all you hear is singing, and then, silence. Two words: well done.
The one negative I found with the way that Screamadelica Live is presented is that the first 40 minutes of the concert, otherwise known as the “Rock And Roll Set,” is treated like bonus footage on this disc. To ignore the more rock-oriented side of Primal Scream is doing the band a terrible disservice; if anything, this bolsters the argument that the show should have been presented in its entirety the way that concertgoers heard it that night in London. These eight songs definitely re-awakened my interest in Primal Scream, especially songs like “Accelerator” and “Jailbird,” and I had forgotten how catchy a song like “Rocks” really was (even if it was savaged by some when it first came out).
Yes, going into Screamadelica Live, I was one of those critics who would have opened the review with “I hate this band, but I’ll review this anyway.” And, to the readers who would ask why I would do this with such a biased chip on my shoulder, the answer is clear: I want to be proven wrong. Fortunately for Gillespie and crew, even with a few missteps, they successfully did prove me wrong. This DVD/CD set proves to be a nice addition to a Primal Scream fan’s collection, as well as a decent entry point for those wondering what all the hype is about.