Primal Scream bring Screamadelica back to London 

Johnny Marr joins Bobby Gillespie on stage at Ally Pally to celebrate 30 years of alt-rock history

There’s an odd irony to watching Primal Scream play Screamadelica at Alexandra Palace. As the band play one of the most definitive counterculture records ever made, the crowd stands and peacefully watches them framed by the skyline of London’s financial district – Primal Scream now looking as much a part of the established musical landscape as you can get. 

Screamadelica was born out of chaos. Capturing lightning in a bottle back in 1991, the band’s third record was a meeting of Scotland, Manchester and the American Delta – it was The Rolling Stones, The Stone Roses and drug culture rolled up in one perfect concept album that went on to steer the new wave of alt-rock for a generation. The result of one of the most notoriously anarchic recording sessions in Creation’s history, the album sprang out of madness to become, arguably, one of the greatest ever made. 

31 years later, Screamadelica has become an institution. Its cover art is on T-shirts sold in Primark. It was on a set of Royal Mail stamps in 2010. Hung from giant banners over the Ally Pally stage (and worn by Bobby Gillespie as an amazing two-piece suit), the album’s scratchy sunshine logo now seems the perfect way to soundtrack one of the hottest days of the year. 

Except it was never a sun at all. Originally designed by Creation’s Paul Cannell after staring at a damp water spot for too long on acid, Screamadelica’s logo is as transgressive as the album itself – and as lost among the craft beer and sourdough pizza stands of Alexander Palace as the record might be itself were it not for the strength of the music.

Mumbling something about Ukraine and the Tories before launching into ‘Come Together’ (with full backing from the House Gospel Choir), Gillespie leads Screamadelica somewhere new – mixing up the running order and adding new surprises along the way. What works as a coming-up/coming-down journey on the record here becomes more about celebrating everything else the album stood for – adding the title track that never appeared in 91, moving ‘Loaded’ to the encore and closing the set with the band’s subsequent greatest hits. 

Primal Scream with Johnny Marr Country Girl Screamadelica Alexandra Palace 16 July 2022

Special guest Johnny Marr joined the band for a flawless run of ‘Jailbird’, ‘Country Girl’, and ‘Rocks’, finishing as big as possible with the song that brings Gillespie as close as he’s ever come to being Mick Jagger (“alright, this is yer last chance to f*cking dance so make the most of it…”). 

The real surprise though is how well Screamadelica still stands up live. Leaving aside the celebrity encores and the posh setting and even the years that separate it from its roots, Primal Scream’s album is still a masterpiece of neo-psychedelia rock. Even chopped up and rearranged, hearing the record’s deeper cuts played back is still electrifying – sounding as vital and alive now as they ever did. 

You can stick that scrubby 90s water stain on as many stamps as you like – and Primal Scream’s audience can age into a respectability that no one ever imagined – but every time Gillespie sings ‘Movin’ On Up’ it’s impossible not to hear the lightning crackling in the bottle again. Roll on the 40th anniversary in 2031.

Primal Scream are playing Standon Calling festival on July 21, as well as a show at Cardiff Castle on July 22. Tickets for both are available here.