The first review from their secret shows...

Primal Scream returned spectacularly to the live scene this weekend with two secret gigs prior to the launch of their new album ‘XTRMNTR’ on 31 January. They played Gloucester Guildhall on Saturday (15 January) and the Oxford Zodiac on Sunday (16 January). attended the show at the Oxford Zodiac. Also present were Alan McGee, Sarah Cracknell and Kris Needs.

Mani strode on stage and dedicated the first song to Serbian warlord Arkan, who was, apparently, “rubbed out by the CIA and MI5”. It was welcome to the new, revolutionary Primal Scream.

Secret gigs can fail spectacularly – all that expectation crushed by too much new, unfamiliar material and unbearable heat. But not on this occasion, as the bruising Terminator funk of `Exterminator’ ground in, all tank wheel bass, amyl beats and Bobby Gillespie‘s hectoring sloganeering. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine added industrial heaviness to the three-pronged guitar attack. It was darker and far more focused than the sprawling Scream of 1998’s ‘Vanishing Point’.

Gillespie let the music do the talking though – there was little polemic, bar some student baiting – and anyway, you always had to doubt their ability to rouse an audience more intent on grooving to the increasingly anachronistic `Rocks’ than kicking over any statues. But Primal Scream fed on this frustration, Gillespie determined to educate and agitate. He will never succumb to the complacency that fuels their stadium-filling contemporaries.

The howling `Kowalski’ meshed seamlessly with the new Neu and DAF-influenced death disco material like `Swastika Eyes’, making it bigger and more brutal than ever, and even the meandering jazz interlude, `Blood Money’, took on a sinister edge. What will always keep Primal Scream ahead of the pack is their astonishing range of influences.

Revolutionary politics might seem odd coming from a band whose name once went hand in hand with hedonism, but this lithe, searing show of strength means business, and now, more than ever, we need Primal Scream.

Ronan Munro