Primal Scream Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, May 15
Published May 16, 2015Almost a year to the day after they were supposed to play Toronto supporting their 2013 album More Light, Primal Scream made good on their promise to return after cancelling their 2014 North American tour. With a six-year gap since their last visit to the city, Scream fans were obviously ready to scratch that itch.
Over the years, Primal Scream have been known to be a ragtag bunch, bringing various musicians on tour to maximize the wall of sound, but for this brief stretch of shows, it was the slimmest line-up in quite some time. Alongside frontman Bobby Gillespie were long-time members Andrew Innes on guitar, Martin Duffy on keys and Darrin Mooney on drums, with Simone Butler now clutching the bass that Mani held for 16 years. Now a well-oiled machine, the Scream have learned over the years to compensate in order to ensure good times.
It's been exactly two years since the release of More Light, so the band opted not to play a set supporting their last full-length, and instead offered a career-spanning set to appease the crowd. Beginning with that album's "2013," the band managed to flesh out the layers of synths and horns thanks to Duffy's handiwork, but felt more at home on straight-up burners like "Can't Go Back" and "Accelerator," which are pure, adrenalized rock'n'roll.
Gillespie lapped up the energy of the room, dancing around and reaching arms outstretched during more groove-based jams like "Kill All Hippies" and "Burning Wheel." They still sound like a cyborg version of Joy Division on "Shoot Speed/Kill Light," in which Gillespie achingly yells out the cyclic four words. That song's verve was the perfect set up to dive into Screamadelica's "Damaged" and "Higher Than the Sun."
The Scream have always excelled at experimenting with the momentum of a gig, and the descent into their more chilled out oeuvre just meant a seismic blast was on its way. After the cold, Teutonic waves of "Autobahn 66" parted, they launched into the violent pulsations of "Swastika Eyes," which basically tripled the BPM before about-facing for the Faces-tinged rock of "Country Girl." Gillespie then asked the crowd, "Toronto, are you ready to testify?" before the air turned gospel for an inspirational end to their set with the feel-good "Movin' On Up."
For the encore, they walked out to Innes gently laying down the riff to "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have," which inevitably led to the song every beer-guzzling Screamaholic was waiting for: "Loaded." The transition wasn't quite as seamless as it could have been, considering the former was basically remixed to become the latter, but once the sample of "Just what is it that you want to do?" came over the speakers, everyone lost their minds and proceeded to follow orders when Gillespie asked, "Toronto, do you wanna get deep down?"
He then honoured the city by playing John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band's "Cold Turkey," a perfect penultimate segue into "Rocks," their greatest example of hedonism, and a song that sent everyone home feeling good. No matter who's with them or how many of them are, that's what Primal Scream do best: send everyone home (or to the pubs) feeling good.