The Primevals: Glasgow – live review

The Primevals, Reverse Cowgirls
Stereo, Glasgow
28 December 2012

Live review 

Our reviewer Joe Whyte finds that his best gig of 2012 is his last one – The Primevals post-Xmas bash in Glasgow.

In what is becoming something of an annual institution, Glasgow’s first and finest purveyors of scuzzy garage rock The Primevals, host a post-Xmas bash which brings many of the city’s punk and pre-punk eminence out to play.

Photographers, journos and lots of members of bands from way back make up the numbers in a near-capacity crowd for a band who are enjoying something of an Indian summer.

Honourable mention must go to support band Reverse Cowgirls who have matured mightily since I last saw them a year ago. Probably “matured” isn’t the best description of a band whose stock-in-trade is crazed, frantic neo-rockabilly-garage crossed with an unhealthy dose of Phil Spector girl-group harmonies. Frontman Hugh is a hugely engaging, wired presence who prowls the stage eyeballing the audience whilst delivering his hiccupping, whooping vocals and beating the hell out of his battered guitar.

Their debut album is out soon and should be a cracker if tonight is anything to go by.

(Apologies here to openers The Liberty takers whom I missed but am reliably informed were excellent).

With little preliminaries, The Primevals take the stage. Tom Rafferty is back on guitar having rejoined the band last year. Martyn Rodgers bosses the stage the other side of frontman Michael Rooney.

Despite Rodgers’ looking like “kid most likely to go postal on his co-workers” in the school yearbook, he is the undoubted star of the show. Excoriating lead lines, thunderous power chords and end-of-the-world feedback is his stock in trade. Pirouetting between Rooney and cool-as-you-like bassman John Honeyman, he gleefully unleashes all kinds of hell from his Stratocaster.

Opening with a tribute to late blues-carnage legend Sonny Sharrock, The Primevals sound mean, lean and sharp-edged. Rattling straight into a loose-limbed  It Don’t Feel Free this is a band who have the ability to take their material and run with it, toy with it or fuck it senseless.

Despite currently promoting new album Heavy War, The Primevals are unafraid to visit the past. Two songs from 1984’s debut Eternal Hotfire are dusted off and Have Some Fun sounds as vital and fat-free as it did then.

Surprisingly, crowd fave Saint Jack makes an early appearance in the set.  Rooney’s maraca-shaking form twists itself around the mic stand and the ghost of The Gun Club is summoned.

The Primevals were always one of Glasgow’s cooler bands. This righteous demeanour is tonight still on show, although my mate (who, incidentally, flew back from Australia to see this gig) points out that Rafferty is “smiling too much”. I reply simply, “he’s in The Primevals, what’s not to be happy about?”

I think my point was taken.

Finishing the set with four songs from your current album would be a brave move for most bands. The Primevals aren’t most bands.

The songs from Heavy War, in particular the title track, are as downright powerful as anything they’ve released before.  Live, they take on an almost unholy hue.

Rodgers’ guitar is a howling, carnal presence amongst the tightly-wound rhythm section of Honeyman and sticksman Paul Bridges who barely looks like he’s breaking sweat, despite the beating his kit has taken. Rooney is rolling back the years as he writhes around the floor amongst pieces of broken microphone stand.

It’s over too soon and an encore of Primeval Call from 1986’s Sound Hole leaves a hot and bothered crowd to sup pints and contemplate taxi ranks.

I’ve seen a lot of bands this year, lots of them excellent shows. I think I can safely say that my gig of the year was this one, my last. Roll on next Xmas.

All words by Joe Whyte. You can read more from Joe on LTW here.

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