Primus mixes old, new for entertaining Palace show

The heavier the music, the happier the crowd at Friday night’s sold out Primus show at the Palace.
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The heavier the music, the happier the crowd at Friday night’s sold out Primus show at the Palace. And metal-heavy it was for the first set, which featured mostly older, tried and true tunes.

Unfortunately, for the second set, Primus played the soundtrack from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” promoting their new record “Primus and the Chocolate Factory.”

The second set was far more spacey, experimental, and off course a bit. They were joined on stage by the Fungi Ensemble, along with over-sized “oompa loompa” characters from the movie and video of scenes from the movie. The effort was entertaining and ambitious — maybe even interesting — and there were cool moments, for sure, but it was a far cry from the danceable metal-funk of their first set.

“Cheer Up Charlie,” never really got going and felt like more of a put-on than a genuine effort.

“Oompa Augustus,” “Oompa Violet” and the “Semi Wondrous Boat Ride” were sufficiently psychedelic, with haunting Primus tones and thundering riffs from Les Claypool, but it still fell short for the crowd that was antsy to jump around again to their beats.

The first set delivered exotically heavy jams that loomed loud, large and dark. Claypool doesn’t really sing, but rather speaks through the song in mostly monotonic mumbling under the instruments. He runs things with his bass, which dominated the night, overpowering the drums, guitar and even his own vocals. He does not play driving bass lines, instead strumming short, heavy phrases with sharp, jagged cuts that leave considerable space for the rest of the guys.

Often guitarist Larry LaLonde let Claypool and drummer Tim Alexander rumble away on their own. “Eleven” was the first such lengthy jam and felt like haunted-house music, until they slammed heavy into a new time signature.

They followed with “My Name is Mud,” Alexander staying steady and straight on the drums while Claypool and LaLonde sped off into full-force solos. LaLonde then cut out, leaving Claypool’s funky bass rocking out with the drums while he sang: “My name is mud.”

Between songs, Claypool treated us to a few jazzy licks, even starting Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and singing a verse, the crowd exploding, before he abruptly stopped, as if that kind of thing was for a different night and a different crowd.

LaLonde played a full solo during “Harold of the Rocks.” Part blues, part metal, it was a hard sound to pin down. The trio is of course tight, but not the look-at-us-we-practice-a-lot kind of tight. Instead, they’re great at making big noises together, serious, dark sounds with giant momentum. The lengthy jams rarely included solos, rather the three thumped and thrummed together in one mashed-up ball that they moved to and fro together.

The crowd stayed on its feet the entire show. The dancing moved more like jam-band cavorting than heavy metal thrashing. Men dominated the crowd, though women were represented, and some were dressed in Primus-themed costumes.

Despite the considerable volume, the sound held its clarity and felt good.

Claypool doesn’t seem to take himself seriously on stage, at least between songs, which lightens the tone of the night. He was more fun during the first set, all serious during the zany and often silly second set.

They sealed things at the end with strong encores, most notably “Here Come the Bastards,” accompanied by the appropriately disturbing video.

All in all, we may not have gotten the golden ticket Charlie got, but Primus delivered their high-end metal — often stepping outside for more and less — with a worthy effort at something new.

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