Watch: Primal Scream-MC5 Live ’08 DVD

 

And they’re calling it
Black To Comm, natch…

 

By Michael Toland

 

As the opening text points out, the DVD Black to Comm (Easy Action) captures the meeting of different
generations of rock & roll bands at the 2008 Massive Attack-curated Meltdown
Festival: Primal Scream and the MC5-DKT. It may seem to be a misnomer to label Primal
Scream rock & roll, given the band’s identification with dance music and
electronica (at least in the States). But the Screams have always been as much
about the Rolling Stones and the Stooges, and it’s that musical side that gets
indulged here. (No “Come Together” or “Loaded.”)

 

 

 

 

 

With a setlist dominated by material from the aggressive XTRMNTR and the then-new Beautiful Future, the band simply hits
the stage in full rock mode, putting two guitar power behind even
dance-oriented songs like the funky “Uptown”
and the driving “Swastika Eyes.” Lanky leader Bobby Gillespie may be the focal
point, with his hippie snake dance moves and laconic vocals, but six-stringers
Andrew Innes and Barrie Cadogan provide the music’s true firepower. Even
“Rocks,” the single from the lackluster Give
Up But Don’t Give Out
, comes to roaring life in the hands of the guitar
duo, with Gillespie rising to the occasion and letting himself channel a little
Iggy and a lot of Jagger. Despite opening with “Accelerator,” it takes some
time for Primal Scream to start firing on all cylinders. But by the time the
band closes with “Can’t Go Back,” the crowd is on its feet and in the throes of
rock & roll abandon.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of which, the original edition of that handbook was
penned by the MC5. Even in its incarnation of MC5-DKT (Michael Davis, Wayne
Kramer, Dennis Thompson with a rotating cast, as singer Rob Tyner and guitarist
Fred “Sonic” Smith had at the time, of course, passed on), the band was just as
capable of the kind of fireworks rock fans dream about. Joined here by Sisters
of Mercy guitarist Adam Pearson and Alice in Chains/Comes With the Fall singer
William DuVall, Kramer, Thompson and Davis come out swinging with “Ramblin’
Rose,” launching into “Kick Out the Jams” immediately after. The Greatest Hit
out of the way, the band roams the MC5 catalog with a discerning eye, hitting
the obvious anthems (“Over and Over,” “Sister Anne,” “Looking at You”), but
throwing in some not so obvious cuts as well. “Call Me Animal,” “Come Together”
and “Future/Now” (misidentified as “I Want You Right Now” on the sleeve) rock
as fiercely as the aforementioned, and if “Human Being Lawnmower” manages to
get away from everybody onstage at one point or another, Kramer makes up for it
with a sizzling solo. Pearson and DuVall fulfill their roles nicely, with the
soulful voiced and afroed DuVall a particularly appropriate substitute, though
his between-song banter often sounds tentative. By the time “The American Ruse”
brings the set to a blasting close, this lineup has damn near claimed the
catalog for its own.

 

Never ones to shy away from a challenge, the MC5-DKT then
brings the whole of Primal Scream back onstage for a five-song jam, beginning
with a blazing run through “I Can Only Give You Everything,” the Five’s first
single. The ensemble then takes on a pair of Scream songs, swinging through the
funky “Movin’ On Up” and charging through the very Five-like “Skull X” with
obvious enthusiasm and a surprisingly amount of precision. (Clearly a lot of
rehearsal took place before the show.) DuVall and Gillespie often get
overwhelmed by the music, but with four guitars, two bassists, two drumkits and
a keyboardist churning away behind them, who can blame them? A ramshackle
portion of “Rocket Reducer No. 62” follows, which starts as a singalong before
devolving into a playful, jazzy free-for-all.

 

Then it’s time for the climax, with violinist Mel Draisley
(who guested with Primal Scream), saxophonist Curtis Stone and an unidentified
guitarist joining the small army for “Black to Comm,” the original Five’s
long-gone (and never waxed in studio) concert closer that best represented the
band’s attempts to bridge the gap
between Little Richard/Chuck Berry and John Coltrane/Albert Ayler. Poet/former
Five manager John Sinclair also arrives to add some ruminations on jazz
improvisation, but the song belongs to the musicians. It occasionally descends
into the maelstrom, but it was designed to do that, and besides, everybody
involved looks like they’re having a natural ball. Which is, after all, the
point of rock & roll, and that point is made very strongly on Black to Comm.

 

 

 

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