Mark Stewart - Live At The Scala, London

Post-punk icon returns...
Mark Stewart.JPG
Mark Stewart is big. Literally.

In size, scale and persona the man is HUGE. When his prop forward bulk looms through the stage door, he seems to trundle with him enormous baggage – this is, after all, the man who propelled The Pop Group through entire genres, leaving new possibilities, new disciplines in their wake.

Recent album ‘The Politics Of Envy’ struggled with the legend. Fusing distorted beats with punk rock guitars and political ire, Mark Stewart produced something every bit as contrarian as his post-punk heyday. A difficult listen, the album seems to come to vivid life when confronted with the singer’s imposing visage.

Leaping into ‘Nothing Is Sacred’ Stewart seems to effortlessly channel the influences present on ‘The Politics Of Envy’ in a way that the studio document simply cannot. The music simply works better as a performance piece, with the post-punk icon fizzing and cracking with rare electricity.

Stalking the stage like a Head Master from the School of Ideas, Mark Stewart rarely addresses the crowd directly. Rather, the music tumbles, seethes and surges from track to track with the singer screaming “there are no spectators!” as he re-opens punk wounds.

Bobby Gillespie drops by to run through lead single ‘Autonomia’. A tribute to an Italian student killed in political riots last year, the Primal Scream singer looks nervous, on edge - nerves that dissipate when the song’s cataclysmic opening chords race out of the speakers. Raising his game, Gillespie is the Spitfire to Stewart’s Lancaster, the shock troop to the Bristol icon’s heavy artillery.

With the band clearly only primed for a short show, the decision to come back on for an encore takes the musicians by surprise. Inviting Bobby Gillespie back onstage, Mark Stewart leads the charge through ‘Autonomia’ once again.

Spotting a disturbance in the front row, Stewart then leaps away from the stage. Pushing two audience members away from each other, he bulldozes his massive frame between the pair as security intervene. Rushing back onstage to finish the show, Mark Stewart and Bobby Gillespie finish by pushing each other all the way: “keep the dream, keep the dream, keep the dream alive”.

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