Tuesday, 26 March 2013

MUSIC REVIEW: David Holmes and Primal Scream

Along with a famous local DJ, Bobby Gillespie and his crew send warm musical shockwaves around Derry-Londonderry on an ice cold night

The stage of Ebrington's Vital Venue is bathed in red as a weary looking guy with the hangdog expression of Ian McCulloch gets his records ready. It's renowned Belfast DJ and film composer David Holmes, best known for his adaptability and all round jive. The gaps in the Venue crowd, most likely the result of a traditional St. Patrick's Day hangover, do not seem to deter Holmes or the various onlookers. Can both he and Primal Scream fill those gaps and set the Venue alight?

What follows is extremely deafening, beginning with a mixture of drawn out, dry and funky musical notes scattered all over the place alongside a symphonic light show. As so many of the equally scattered crowd stand there, transfixed on the stage, it feels like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind come to life in the 21st century, a moment very much in keeping with the John Williams spectacular of the night before. From that moment on, one ponders: what exactly is Holmes trying to do here? Sometimes, it sounds like he is using jungle music to tell the tale of wild animals traipsing through a rainforest, and at other times, he’s flat out channelling early '80s Irish punk. The bludgeon and bluster in between challenges Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother as the sort of thing you really need earplugs for.

Unfortunately for Holmes, our encounter with his music never feels close. As a composer and DJ, he has earned his praise; but in this sort of venue everything seems a bit detached. His deliberate attempt to "tie in" with the tone of the night comes across as a little suffocating and not entirely suitable for the arena. It's a warm up exercise for the band, a little like being shaken into action, but not really stirred. "Admirable" and "interesting" are probably the best compliments one could offer Holmes here.

Now take those adjectives, change "admirable" to "intimate", add "energetic" & "welcoming" and you'll have an almost perfect summation of Primal Scream on the night. Although in actuality, for all the efforts of guitarists Andrew Innes & Barrie Cadogan, keyboard player Martin Duffy, drummer Darrin Mooney and radiant bassist Simone Butler – and they are commendable – this is really lead singer Bobby Gillespie's show. Like an even lankier Brett Anderson, a less reserved Simon Fowler or a more extroverted Tim Burgess, Gillespie slinks around the stage throughout each number, slowly but surely coercing the ever-growing audience into a blissfully hypnotic state. He's almost like Captain Jack Sparrow minus the excessive camp and costuming, an everyman one minute, a God-like presence the next, effortlessly firing out singable refrains while the rest of the band professionally cooperate. Even more remarkably, he never loses respect for his audience, clearly relishing the opportunity of his only Northern Irish gig in 2013.

And "2013" fittingly starts and ends this memorable set. The extremely versatile mix of musical genres on show, from Rolling Stones-inspired rock to country & western to even rap, pass themselves on to a now fully attentive audience beguiled by the highly effective use of lighting and spot effects. Most memorable, perhaps, are the sight of extremely bizarre silhouettes on stage during "Burning Wheel", dancing and clapping away to the cleverly encore-reserved favourites "Loaded" and "Rocks", and probably, above all, the joyous and unifying effect of the famous "Come together as one..." refrain on the Derry crowd.

In that moment alone, the atmosphere in the Venue is worthy of any concert venue in the world, marking out the evening as a more than welcome dose of "Culturecide" – yes, that song does feature in the set list – for the City Of Culture during the seemingly endless wintry weather.


Ronnie said...

Nice piece!