With the release in 1991 of the genre-bending “Screamadelicia,” Glasgow’s Primal Scream served notice of their intention to be the Rolling Stones of the rave generation. Their intermittently compelling performance at Vynyl showed just how close they have come to that ambition.
Taking the stage one hour after their announced set time, the band members came out of the gate in spectacular fashion, slamming through a passionate “Swastika Eyes,” accompanied by klaxons and moodily effective backlighting. Like the other selections from their impressive new album “XTRMNTR” (Astralwerks), they presented their band at its best, a loud, densely layered riot yoking bluesy classic rock chord changes to jittery electronic rhythms, attacked with a punky energy, with fuzz-toned guitars and treated keyboards giving the music a thuggish intensity.
Ironically, the band sounded least convincing the closer it came to its influences. The Stonesy riffing of “Rocks” was perfunctory, and spacy ballads such as “Higher Than the Sun” were flaccid. But a heavy-lidded “Medication” and the abstract electronica of “Vanishing Point” found the band on more comfortable territory straddling genres.
There’s a harsh political element to Primal Scream’s new songs, but it never came across on stage. Singer Bobby Gillespie stood draped over the mike stand, never making contact with the packed house, overwhelmed by the band’s furious roar.
Only when former Sex Pistol guitarist Steve Jones (who looks increasingly like a manual laborer) joined the band for the final two encores, did Gillespie and Primal Scream look engaged. As they careened through versions of two punk-rock touchstones, the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” and the Stooges’ “No Fun,” Gillespie and the band broke out in broad smiles, the music’s ferocity providing a contentment and satisfaction that was not in evidence earlier.