Heavy-hitters and deep-cuts collide as the Sunday night headliners play their richest set in years
When did Bobby Gillespie become the elder statesman of alt-rock? Watching The Pretenders from the wings during their Sunday sub-slot at Bearded Theory, he even threw Chrissie Hynde off her game just by being there. Walking out on the same stage an hour later, Gillespie commands the kind of sage reverence that’s usually reserved for all his own idols.
Now older, wiser, and settled more comfortably into timelessness by last year’s Screamadelica anniversary tour, Gillespie swaps his custom sunshine suit for a stately white two-piece – and his usual parade of early 90s Haçienda hits for a broader setlist that celebrates the whole history of Primal Scream.
This is tour that’s been opening with ‘Swastika Eyes’, ‘Skull X’ and ‘Pills’ – swapped here for ‘Come Together’ and a full 10-minute cut of ‘2013’, but with no less of an emphasis on the harder-edges of XTRMNTR and Evil Heat.
Of course we still get a near-perfect string of festival closer essentials in ‘Loaded’, ‘Movin’ On Up’ and ‘Country Girl’, but Bearded Theory also gets the deeper cuts too. ‘Big Jet Plane’ turns up as a live debut 12 years too late, and ‘Free’ earns itself the best sax solo of the weekend from Fat White Family’s Alex White (not easy, with the likes of Viagra Boys, Yard Act and Echo & The Bunnymen in competition).
Now dipping hard into the urgent grittiness that marked the band’s later 90s period, the set fast-cuts real footage of civil rights marches, police brutality and carpet bombing as Gillespie maracas his way around the gospel singers. Elsewhere there’s 70s vampires strutting to ‘Suicide Bomb’, a photo tribute to Mark Lanegan on ‘Deep Hit Of Morning Sun’, and a march of time supercut through the 20th century that feels like Primal Scream pasting themselves back into history.
Closing out Bearded Theory’s last night with fireworks and a frenzied blues-jam encore of ‘Rocks’, Gillespie even lets a rare smile slip. This is what immortality feels like.
Read our full review of Bearded Theory 2023 here.