As the dust settles on another fine weekend in Hull, perhaps one of the finest we’ve seen for many a year in terms of the talent and sheer spectacle on show, it’s time to take stock and make some sense of it all. As Glastonbury raged on in Somerset, looming large in the background, it felt like we had our very own festival to rival the Pilton extravaganza.
‘You playing out?’ came the first text from a mate. It was 15.34.
Bit keen, aren’t we?
Such was the excitement generated by the impending appearances of two of the greatest left-field bands of their generation, that people wanted to get on it mid-afternoon. The hysteria on social media was palpable too.
I didn’t want to peak too early though.
I made it to Queens at 6pm. 4 taxis booked for town at 6.30. It was like a military manoeuvre. The usual piss-poor planning of us Hull gig-goers replaced by a regimented precision that was matched by the organisation of the event. We were in town for 6.45.
Echo and The Bunnymen were onstage at 7.50. Perfect! I was worried that they would be doing their set in the sunshine, which is not the way they should be seen. Sunset is the time to see Mac and the boys. Or complete darkness. Sunset would do just fine.
On they saunter at exactly 7.50 to huge cheers. Ian McCulloch was the proto-Gallagher back in the 80s. That’s what drew me to them. To that kind of music. His Smash Hits interviews were the stuff of legend. He’d take aim at everyone, a right cocky fucker, but mainly Bono received his stinging criticism. Plus he looked amazing. Proper cool as fuck. He’s lost none of that insouciant cool, as he launches into the first number. Perma-shaded and still looking good for his age, 58, his charisma shines through the ever-present dry ice.
‘Hull. City of culture, eh? About fuckin’ time!’
The first song, ‘Going Up,’ is the first song on their first album. A good place to start. The atmospheric opener fills Zebedee’s Yard, with its thrilling, driving menace. The venue is fast-becoming the perfect venue in town, in my opinion, negating the necessity for the enormodome they’re building a few hundred metres away. It’s just the right size for band of this size, and the sound ricochets off the walls, ensuring wherever you are inside the old schoolyard, you get a good earful. The next three songs, Rescue, Villiers Terrace and All That Jazz, all from Crocodiles too, set the scene perfectly as the sun comes down. Dark, brooding and nicely building the set, propelling it forward. Old-timers and young uns alike were going mental in the melee in front of him. Hull is well up for this.
The early stuff is rapturously received; it’s their most critically-lauded period and is deployed with aplomb. He’s done his homework too, the Hull references keep the crowd in the palm of his hand. ‘I wouldn’t mind one o’ them,’ he informs us. He’s on about the huge ad for ‘luxury apartments’ on the wall.
Ian McCulloch wants to live in Hull!
The biggest cheer comes when, no stranger to self-aggrandisement, he doffs his cap to local legend, Mick Ronson. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard him use a superlative when describing someone else. He informs us that his guitarist, Will Sergeant, the only original remaining member except himself, is the second best guitarist ever. Behind Ronno. It’s a lovely touch, paying respect and showing humility.
From then on it’s Greatest Hits territory, as we get expert renditions of classics, Seven Seas, Bring On The Dancing Horses, and Nothing Lasts Forever (which is a little too close for comfort given the presence of someone I introduced to the band, so I go for a piss). The final four songs are a masterclass in set-conclusion. The Killing Moon sounds massive as usual. It’s usually introduced as ‘the greatest song ever written.’ I can’t remember if it is tonight, but it’s difficult to disagree. The Cutter and Lips Like Sugar follow and sound equally monumental. The set is brought to and end with Do It Clean. The end going back to the start. Everyone’s left open-mouthed. How the hell do you follow that?
Fortunately, big-stage veterans Primal Scream are more than up to the task. It’s not a competition, and they deliver a massive show in a different way. Mac and co gave us a blistering set of 80s guitar anthems. The Scream are here to make us DANCE.
And dance we do.
It’s a mixed crowd. There’s the 80s Spiders crowd, the indie-dance crowd, the old ravers and the up-and-coming music enthusiasts who have great knowledge and respect for the music of the past. There’s all sorts rubbing shoulders with each other. It’s a fantastic, peaceful atmosphere.
And it turns into a rave, circa 1990. People here to see the Scream are here to party.
Bobby’s here to party too, resplendent in silver lamé shirt, similar to the one worn in the Movin’ On Up video. Similar dance moves too; a hybrid of Mick Jagger at his pomp, and Kermit The Frog. It’s a singular dance alright, but it’s from the groove his band are banging out.
Thankfully, we get the big tunes. The ones we’re here for. It’s a balmy (barmy) Friday night. We want Screamadelica-era bangers. And they deliver.
We get the ear-splitting Swastika Eyes first. It’s a great opener, a great statement of intent. Lightning fast and impossible not to dance to. Next up is the lysergic cover of 13th Floor Elevators Slip Inside This House, and it’s impossibly sexy and filthy. An instruction to get deep down and dirty.
My favourite Scream album veers between Screamadelica and Give Out But Don’t Give Up. The latter got a bad rap on release because it wasn’t Screamadelica #2, but it’s got some of their finest songs on it. Jailbird, is one, and it’s next. It sends the crowd wild, as bug-eyed hedonists punch the air to its ‘I’m yours! You’re mine. Gimme more of that jailbird pie!’ refrain. It’s nonsense, but it makes perfect sense as the sweaty mass moves as one, well into it now. More Stonesy blues follow with Dolls, and it’s perfectly placed in the set, complementing the previous boogie.
There’s a slight lull in the middle of the set, as we get three relatively recent songs from their last two albums, plus the gorgeous Damaged from Screamadelica. It’s a genius move actually. Gives us breathing space for the onslaught on the senses that’s coming our way.
The last five songs are as good a closing salvo as any band’s got in their arsenal.
‘Just What Is It That You Want To Do?’
The moment we were waiting for. You can feel the love in the Yard.
Don’t mind if we do.
The communal vibe in the place, where Jeremy Corbyn sermonised just a few weeks ago, is an almost religious one. The American kind, where preachers ‘heal’ people for money. Bobby Gillespie the preacher, cleansing souls in the shadow of Holy Trinity church, metres away. Cleansing us with the devil’s music. It’s amazing. Everyone’s hugging each other. Old friendships are cemented, new ones forged. A meeting of the minds. Yes, we do wanna get fucking Loaded, thank you very much.
Next up is Country Girl, now firmly established as a latter-day Scream classic. Snake-hipped, aging ravers and young bucks respond positively in unison. Rocks closes proceedings. It’s a bona fide banger. Everyone in the place bounces to its driving rhythm, it’s hitting fever pitch, taking 3000 Hull revellers a little closer to the skies.
Careful, Icarus! The sun’s gone in, though, so we’re not going to get burnt. Just scorched by the intense, electric atmosphere.
We know there’s more though.
They come back out to rabid applause. And treat us to what seems like a 20-minute version of Come Together. We are. We’re all in this together. I spot a few teary old-timers. Tears of joy as they’re transported back to more innocent times. It starts off as the Weatherall album version, then segues into the original Terry Farley-mixed version and back again. It’s quite simply stunning. It’s long, but you want it to go on forever. It washes away any demonic presence in the place. It’s imperative that we obey its message, and the ecstatic crowd duly oblige. Old friends groove away, arms around each other, physically and emotionally conforming to its implored mantra.
We’re almost spent emotionally. But no quite.
The opening bars, acoustic guitar and piano, chime out over the sound system, and swirl into the cool night air. Movin’ On Up. Come on, man, we can’t get much higher! But we somehow find the energy to do so. It’s always a pleasure to hear this live, and it’s the perfect end to a perfectly-paced set. The people of Hull literally can’t take any more. It sends the throng out with smiles on their faces.
Inevitably, people do find more energy, as the surrounding bars are packed, and people are milling about, making arrangements for the after-party. It’s been an inspiring evening. No-one will have left Zebedee’s Yard anything other than completely satiated and full of love.
Well, almost no-one.
A resounding success. We’ve witnessed two bands, both plying their trade in the 80s and 90s mainly, and they’ve made us feel impossibly young.
WORDS: Mike Robbo
IMAGES: Thomas Arran