Primal Scream, Sshh @ Hq Complex, Adelaide 16/2/2018

Dear HQ,

Please turn your lights down. The entire audience area is bathed in… no… not bathed, that sound too soothing. Assaulted? That may seem harsh. And maybe I’m just very old, but there is so much blue neon in here, I’m finding it hard to see clearly and it’s making me kind of dizzy. Not to worry, everyone! I’ll soldier on.

As a librarian, I feel qualified to review the first band tonight. Sshh. (Librarian jokes? No? I’ll move on)

I did a little research before coming out tonight and I’m intrigued. Australian singer and Ringo Starr’s son, making music which has been described as Aphex Twin meets Sex Pistols? And they have a tiny drum kit! I’m quite looking forward to this.

Vocalist Sharna Liguz is originally from Bondi. She met Zak Starkey after a gig in Sydney over a decade ago. After emails and songs made over the phone, they now play as duo Sshh.  Tonight, they are joined by another Australian, Ali Foster, on drums.

Sharna prowls and poses all over the stage, and the dancefloor. She’s demanding we pay attention, threatening to personally pull the audience closer if we don’t move out of the dark corners. We don’t. She does, and jumps from the stage to entice, twirl and tango with shy audience members. This works and as she returns to the stage, everyone moves closer. This also means people are standing in the way of the neon floor lights. It’s a win for Sshh, and a win for me!

Sshh is power and confidence, playing to the crowd and the cameras, clearly at home on the stage. She and Zak kick and fight and pull and push against each other, while attacking their music ferociously. And then there’s a penguin. And a harmonica. I was not expecting that. But does it work? Yes, it does.

Each song sounds familiar. But it’s not in a “They’re just copying *insert band name here*”. It’s more like, “I know this song, don’t I?” I did keep thinking of Transvision Vamp though, but that may have been due to the blonde brattish poutiness of their vocalist.

I kind of wish they were playing second. It’s taken the whole set for the audience to warm up and relax, despite how hard each band member has worked to lure and tempt them. Sshh leave the stage with a possible chipped tooth and what I thought I heard was the news of a new single coming out March 2.

Blue lights back up, smoke machines at the ready. My date and I are discussing whether Lime Cordiale are also playing tonight. The email I received says yes, the internet says no. Who will be victorious?

The internet wins! Primal Scream swagger on, and Slip Inside This House starts without a word of introduction (obviously not required by the reaction from the crowd). Everyone begins that 90s sway. The room is bathed, (yes bathed) in a purple glow which is most welcome, yet front man Bobby Gillespie still asks for the lights to be turned down. Suddenly I feel less old and more vindicated for my earlier complaints. Thanks, Bobby!

They are ripping through their set. Three songs in and still no hello. Bobby appears to work like some kind of slinky wind-up toy.  One moment he’s encouraging the crowd, clapping along, breaking out a wild, double maraca solo. The next he’s gripping the mic stand and staring at the floor. Then the switch is flicked, the key turns, his entire face lights up with a smile and we begin again. Whatever he’s doing though, he is mesmerizing to watch and the crowd are lapping it up. I don’t have much of a history with Primal Scream other than singing along to Rocks when I saw it on Rage late at night, but every other person here is worshipping at the Primal Scream altar. It’s amazing to watch. I can’t remember the last time I saw so much elated appreciation.

The admiration is shared with the other members up on stage tonight. Andrew Innes on guitar, Simone Butler on bass, Darrin Mooney on drums, and hidden behind a wall of keyboards and synths, Martin Duffy.

Ending the set with Rocks and then finishing up the encore with extended versions of Come Together and Moving on Up, I fully understood what people meant by ‘The Church of Primal Scream’. This was a congregation, a gathering of faithful followers, hands in the air until the very end.

Review by Carly Whittaker

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