Bay Area alternative-rock trio Primus returns from three years of inactivity with prodigal drummer Tim “Don’t Call Me Herb” Alexander, who left the band in 1996 under somewhat mysterious circumstances, in tow. Primus, once again with its original lineup, ran through a typically adventurous, two-set multimedia performance featuring a tasty sampling of its 13-year recorded career, along with a couple brand-new, more jam-oriented selections.
Attendees shouted the familiar “Primus Sucks” slogan as the band opened the show with one of its signature compositions, “To Defy the Laws of Tradition.” Like most of its songs, this one boasted singer-bassist Les Claypool’s droll, cartoon-like vocals and his metal-meets-jazz fingering and slapping technique, along with guitarist Larrry LaLonde’s atmospheric scrapings and Alexander’s complex rolls and fills.
The newly recorded “My Friend Fats,” from the “Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People” (Interscope) DVD/CD combo, is another of Claypool’s sarcastic psycho-biographies, and it was one of the first set’s highlights, along with the follow-up cover of the Residents’ “Hello Skinny” and set-closer “Harold of the Rocks,” which included an impressive “Dazed and Confused”-inspired middle part.
Set No. 2 on this tour is a song-by-song re-creation of the popular 1991 Primus album “Sailing the Sea of Cheese.” It’s the portion of the show where the band truly lets loose, opening with “Sea of Cheese,” featuring Claypool (now wearing a platinum blond wig) on bowed bass. The excellent mid-set single “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” was a crowd fave but unfortunately segued into a too-long drum solo.
“Those Damn Blue Collar Tweakers” — long a Primus concert staple — was another highlight, complete with a sampling of “YYZ” by Rush, as was set-ender “Los Bastardos,” which included a couple of the band’s roadies joining Alexander for a three-drum intro. Show ended on a high note with another of the band’s most popular tracks, the silly “Too Many Puppies.”
Six-week Primus tour plays Gotham’s Roseland Ballroom on Nov. 14.