“PRIMUS SUCKS!” chanted thousands of fans in ecstatic, ironic praise of the musical oddity that is Primus live. On Saturday night, Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde, and Jay Lane performed the last show of their fall tour “An Evening with Primus” at the Wiltern. They forewent opening acts and cut straight to the carny music, which led the trio onstage amidst two giant astronauts (complete with projected images of an old man’s face) and a large LED screen to display the necessary psychedelic, art-funk videos and visualizations.
Primus performed two sets at the sold-out venue, sating the appetites of loyal fans with their older classics during the first half of the show and following up with a promotion of their recently released album Green Naugahyde. The first set began with traditional Primus flair: freak show music, the emergence of Claypool and his bowler hat, and two distinctive dissonant guitar chords that hailed the beginning of “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers.”
“Pudding Time” was up next, and the band’s eccentric energy seemed more synergistic as they played with a rhythmically tighter sound that would remain throughout the night. Odd-metered sections and complex riffs were executed without any hiccups, displaying Primus’s downplayed musical professionalism that hides behind animal masks and Claypool’s babbled incoherency. The set also included the customary Claypool speech, during which the bass virtuoso addressed the state of the pit by asking, “Is there a penalty for not keeping things safe? Sodomy?”
During intermission, episodes of Popeye the Sailor played on the LED screen while the crew readied the stage for their Green Naugahyde set. Random—yet strangely very Primus.
This set marked a shift in the evening from old to very brand new. The band started with the Asian textures of “Eternal Consumption Engine,” featuring Claypool’s upright electric bass. There was a definite variation in the crowd’s energy, which seemed to drift from unadulterated Primus adoration during the first set to contemplative approval of the band’s newest works. Audience liveliness levels hit a plateau, briefly spiked for the single “Tragedy’s A’Comin’,” and dipped back down to a respectable degree until the trio walked offstage at the end of the set.
After several unsuccessful attempts to coordinate a solid “Primus sucks!” chant, fans finally woke up and united in the effort to call the band back for an encore. Primus finally met the crowd’s demands with “Southbound Pachyderm” and, of course, “Tommy the Cat.”
Although Claypool’s is the more famous name outside the Primus fanbase, the spotlight equally did LaLonde and Lane justice during their respective and frequent solos throughout the entirety of the show. Claypool’s solos did, however, have the showmanship upper hand as he played his usual gambit of fairly uncommon instruments, including the acoustic bass, the electric upright bass, and the Whamola. An awesome bass solo is an awesome bass solo, but a prodigious Whamola solo while sporting a monkey mask is just premium Primus buffoonery. Overall, “An Evening with Primus” was exactly the show that veteran fans expected and a quirky night of freakishly well-played music for virgin Primus concert attendees.
Complete Show Set List:
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Speed
Over the Falls
Drum and Whamola Jam
Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
Over the Electric Grapevine
Set Two: Green Naugahyde
Prelude to a Crawl
Last Salmon Man
Eternal Consumption Engine
Eyes of the Squirrel
Jilly’s on Smack
Lee Van Cleef
Tommy the Cat