Review: ‘Primus’

Not much has changed in the bizarre world of Primus since the release of the distinctive post-punk trio's first album in 1990: The San Francisco band, fronted by lead bassist and vocalist Les Claypool, continues to push the rock envelope with imaginative recordings and challenging live performances with barely a hint of popular commercial consideration.

Not much has changed in the bizarre world of Primus since the release of the distinctive post-punk trio’s first album in 1990: The San Francisco band, fronted by lead bassist and vocalist Les Claypool, continues to push the rock envelope with imaginative recordings and challenging live performances with barely a hint of popular commercial consideration.

At the near-full Palladium, Primus played five songs from its new “Antipop” album (Interscope) plus a half-dozen earlier favorites with a defiant and cocky gusto, eliciting consistent cheers of approval from the tech-minded, male-skewing crowd, which had egged the band onto the stage with traditional fan shouts of “Primus sucks.”

“Hello, New York,” said Claypool, who wore a helmet and a bovine mask throughout the 75-minute perf. The three players were spread out on the otherwise uncluttered stage, with the psychedelic videos projected onto the white backdrop serving as the only visual distraction.

Claypool’s taut bass thumps careened about the big room while guitarist Larry LaLonde swirled spastic, anxious chords that always found their place just behind Claypool’s four-string antics.

Drummer Brain, who joined in 1996, had his work cut out for him considering the left-field bass player he’s teamed with, but acquitted himself nicely with pleasantly busy efforts, particularly on the Rush-flavored “Final Voyage of the Liquid Sky.”

“My Name Is Mud,” the band’s Zappa-influenced semi-hit from 1993, was intro’ed with a Claypool story about Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated Abraham Lincoln’s wounded assassin. Other songs concerned such unsavory but inspiring characters as “Lacquer Head,” “Sgt. Baker” and “Electric Uncle Sam.”

The show’s opening act, Mysterious Bay Area guitarist Buckethead (he sports a KFC tub on his head and wears a white kabuki face mask), returned throughout Primus’ set to play guitar and, during “Mud,” to dance.

Primus

Palladium; 3,835 capacity; $25

Production

Presented by Goldenvoice. Reviewed Dec. 2, 1999.

Cast

Band: Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde, Brian "Brain" Mantia.
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