On Sunday 27th October, the clocks went back, heralding the start of our yearly descent into the darkest depths of winter. And it was on that Sunday Morning of all Sunday mornings that the original rock ‘n’ roll poet of the forgotten pimps, dopers, trannies, street hasslers and hustlers shuffled off this mortal coil to begin his last great adventure.
Patrons gathered to attend the Primal Scream gig in the Olympia, but the pint-shops and drinking salons around Dame Street were full of the same conversations. Strangers approaching strangers, “Have you heard the news? Lou Reed is dead”.
Lou was the father figure for all that ever dared look left of the rock spectrum. He defined the space that those who dared to follow inhabit. The Scream are Lou’s European Sons, inheriting both his and the Velvet Underground’s artistic vision and legacy.
But death is an unavoidable part of life and the show, like life, must go on. And so the masses descend on the Olympia to celebrate and partake in the continuing odyssey of this thing we lovingly call rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a decidedly decent crowd in attendance for Le Galaxie’s warm up spot. Their ridiculously phat disco beats and infectious tunes winning over any new comers to their ongoing mission-of-a-party to get the Irish up for the boogie.
Primal Scream take to the undressed and bare stage without any fuss. Bobby Gillespie steps up to the mic and informs any that have missed the news that Reed has left the building. He continues, without the man there would be no Primal Scream; he was the reason why they are in a band and tonight they were going to do this one for Lou.
They are in town to hawk their tenth and latest LP, More Light. The album’s opening track, ‘2013’, also serves as tonight’s opener. It is the first of several new tracks featured tonight and the new material sits nicely with the seasoned favourites. But Gillespie is an old hand at it at this stage in his career and he knows how to give the public what the public want, so straight after ‘2013’ they launch into ‘Jailbird’.
Next up the band play some of the tightest and loudest krautrock this side of the Dusseldorf. ‘Shoot Speed Kill Light’ from 2000’s XTRMNTR is the first of tonight’s dalliance into the motorik beat, and ‘Accelerator’ from the same album follows, bringing us further into Teutonic territory. Whereas our Germanic brothers’ music is noted for its clean lines and metronomic pulse, the Scream sit in the groove and tear the mother a new one; the attack is dirty and relentless. Beautiful stuff
As the cleaner living souls of Dublin, who were getting their pre-Marathon rest, will tell you, pacing is everything. And so after the intensity of the opening numbers Bobby and co. bring it down a notch or two by showcasing a few of the smokier numbers from More Light. The respite allows the audience and the band to gather their collective breaths.
But, like Granny used to say, there’s no rest for the wicked; and tonight with Halloween hanging heavy in the air, we’re all feeling very wicked. Grinning from ear to ear like a demented Jack-O-Lantern, Bobby announces that we’re entering the rock ‘n’ roll section of the show. ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’ with its chorus of “Oh La Las” helps brings the energy in the room back up, but it fails to prepare us for the opening hard siren blares of ‘Swastika Eyes’. The white light, white heat intensity of the sonic assault that follows would’ve made that New York beat combo that Mr Reed fronted proud. It’s rock ‘n’ roll alight Bobby; maybe not the variety Elvis would’ve appreciated, but the by now feverish crowd are loving the intensity of every fucking moment.
A full tilt boogie rendition of ‘Country Girl’ finds the Scream channeling the Stones of the Exile on Main St. era, and, keeping to the Keith and Mick template, they don’t miss a beat as they effortlessly segue straight into a blistering ‘Rocks’. Forget about the passing squall of St Jude, somebody better baton down the hatches on the Olympia because these boys are in danger of blowing the roof of this sucker.
The band leaves the stage but no one panics; we know there’s more to come and we know what’s left to come. We’ve had the Primal Stones, we’ve had Primal Kraut now it’s time for the third act, Primal Screamadelica. Gillespie dedicates the encore’s opener to local hero Phil Lynott. The gesture goes down well with the home crowd as the opening bars of ‘Higher Than the Sun’ fills the Olympia and it’s 1990 all over again as we slip into this acid house. As the song progresses, its blissed out dub mutates into a rocking Zeppelin-esque coda.
‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ gets an outing next and, as it was the genesis on which Andrew Weatherall built ‘Loaded’; it’s only natural that we’re next asked by a disembodied voice: “Just what is it that you want to do?”. “We wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time”, we reply as Peter Fonda once did, and by sweet baby Jesus do we. The song gloriously climaxes, the audience is left spent.
Surely that’s it. But Bobby has one card left to deal. “Dublin, can you testify?” he asks. From the stalls to the upper circle, to the Gods, the Olympians answer in the affirmative as one and ‘Moving on Up’ is the Screams’ parting shot. “My light shines on”, indeed.
Given the day’s events, the night was always going to be overshadowed by Lou Reed’s death. Lou may be gone but the rock ‘n’ roll heart keeps beating to the 4/4. The eternal spirit of rock ‘n’ roll will outlive us all. His light shines on.