Come Together: An Evening With MC5 And Primal Scream

The Motor City legends and their heirs apparent show they’ve still got it. Royal Festival Hall, London (June 24)

Given the frequency with which Bobby Gillespie describes his own band’s work as being “high-energy rock’n’roll” and the fact the Motor City Five are the undisputed kings of exactly that, tonight’s pairing is a fitting one. There are few who believe as strongly in the power of music as these two bands, and as they join forces for a climactic blast through MC5’s ‘Black To Comm’ the joy, love, anger and energy in the room is palpable. No-one wants it to end, neither audience nor the many musicians fighting for space onstage.

Primal Scream begin, as they do so often, with ‘Accelerator’ – a song that effectively apes the MC5’s most incendiary moments. Bobby commands all present to get the hell up out of their seats, which they do. A host of newies – the bittersweet pop of ‘Beautiful Future’, the lounge-lizard disco of ‘Uptown’, the robo-punk march of ‘Suicide Bomb’ – stand tall next to the still-powerful ‘Swastika Eyes’ and ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’, and it’s apparent this is a band back to their best. Closing on new single ‘Can’t Go Back’ is perfect; a song that adds a futuristic tint to the musical manifesto of the band about to take the stage.

For their part, MC5 may veer close to cabaret, but it’s difficult to be shit when you’ve got the likes of ‘Ramblin’ Rose’, ‘Looking At You’ and ‘The American Ruse’ at your disposal. Leader Wayne Kramer, resplendent in a white suit, prowls the stage machine-gunning the crowd with his guitar and lapping up the adoration. It’s a fine if not life-changing show, but one that only hits the realms of greatness when the Scream return to the stage and the two groups together tear apart first ‘Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa’, then ‘Movin’ On Up’, a ridiculously fast ‘Skull X’ and finally the aforementioned ‘Black To Comm’. By this point, Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce has crept onstage, Bobby Gillespie is primal screaming like it’s the greatest night of his life and in the rest of the room there is – to quote another of his oft-referenced musical heroes – a riot goin’ on.

“The wailing guitars, girl/The crash of the drums/Makes me wanna keep a-rockin’ ’til the morning comes”, goes MC5’s most famous song, ‘Kick Out The Jams’. And on nights like this, ain’t that just the truth.

Hamish MacBain

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