Glaswegian rock band Primal Scream closed Manchester’s Sounds of the City 2022, as they marked the 30-year anniversary of their seminal Screamadelica album.
The psych-rock band were preceded by a brilliant billing of emerging talent including fellow Scots Walt Disco whose neo-goth glam-rock tunes filled Castlefield Bowl to begin with. Dressed in a flamboyant purple taffeta gown, lead singer James Potter worked the crowd, performing songs from their debut album which was released to critical acclaim earlier this year. Their Bowie-esque vocals combined with new-wave inspired beats combined to create floor-fillers that would warm the audience up this sunny afternoon.
They were followed by native Mancunian LoneLady, whose funk meets post-punk tracks have met with the seal of approval from the likes of Brian Eno and New Order. As a one-woman project, LoneLady was, of course, accompanied by a live band for her set. Her recent record Former Things drew on her experiences growing up in north Manchester. The album’s lead single ‘There Is No Logic’ was an instant crowd pleaser, inviting the audience to dance along to its irresistible groove.
Merseyside’s best musical export since The Beatles, The Mysterines play just before Primal Scream and do an excellent job at hyping the crowd up. Frontwoman Lia Metcalfe’s powerful vocals over thunderous guitars on tracks like ‘Life is a B*tch (But I Like It So Much)’, the bluesy ‘Old Friends / Die Hard’, and the steeped-in-grunge ‘In My Head’ hold the audience’s attention, and even inspire the odd sing-along from fans at the barrier.
When Primal Scream eventually arrive onstage, Bobby Gillepsie is dressed in his bright red suit, emblazoned with the Screamadelica album artwork and an equally excellent pair of red suede boots. Lithe and lean, he prowls around the stage, still sporting his signature long black hair. “Are you ready to be redeemed?” he exclaims, as if he is our preacher, and we his assembly, before bursting into ‘Movin’ On Up.’ Accompanied by a quintet of gospel singers who add a layer of soul to each track, and beneath the golden sunset, it really does feel akin to a religious experience.
This is not the kind of concert where you’ll expect mosh pits, but rather a more relaxed atmosphere: people basking in the sun, side-stepping and nodding their heads in time with the music, smoking a spliff or sipping a cider, and all-in-all just enjoying themselves and appreciating the live music before them.
Because this is an anniversary tour, Primal Scream predictably play their Screamadelica album in full, but with a few tweaks to its chronology, choosing to end on perhaps their most recognisable hit, ‘Loaded’ in all eight minutes of its glory. Gillespie makes great used of the entire stage, strutting across it and leaning towards either side of the audience, such that everyone can catch a glimpse of him.
Third track ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’ is dedicated to Denise Johnson, who originally provided powerhouse vocals on the 1992 album, but tragically passed away during the pandemic. Meanwhile, ‘Slip Inside This House’ cascades through the bowl, its baggy-inspired beat instantly getting those sat on the back benches on their feet.
‘Come Together’ offers Gillepsie the opportunity to vocalise his support for the LGBTQ+ community, and make his solidarity with Ukraine, disdain for the Tories, and his staunch anti-racist stance clear to the crowd. It’s simple yet effective chorus loops on infinitely, as the 8,000 strong crowd chant it back to Gillepsie & co., embracing their friends and families, drinks held high in the air, and grins across their faces as the sun sets
The setlist is not extensive because many of Screamadelica’s songs are lengthy, spiralling soundscapes. Despite this, the band manage to play until 10.50pm, surpassing Castlefield Bowl’s 10.30pm curfew, much to the audience’s delight.
In an encore of greatest hits, Primal Scream play ‘Swastika Eyes’ and ‘Jailbird’, two rockier tunes that get the crowd moving. But Gillespie still has one more trick up his sleeve, as he introduces a very special guest: The Stone Roses’ Mani aka Gary Mountfield, who joins him for not one but two tracks: ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks.’
As the sun sets, and the many-hued stage lights fade, there’s a real sense of joy permeating Castlefield Bowl. Well-versed in working a Mancunian crowd, before departing from the stage, Gillepsie tells fans: “Be northern, be proud.”