(review by Chris Markwell)
Two giant inflatable astronauts flank either side of the Academy stage. All around are people of all shapes, sizes and social cliques, a veritable menagerie of life all brought together by the love of watching weirdos. Tonight will certainly not disappoint: Primus, having not played here in nearly twelve years, is back with a different drummer and new material to showcase. The excitement in the venue is palpable, the show is sold out, and the swing band music softly playing over the PA only serves to add to the strange delight everyone is feeling.
Before the headliners though comes the support group. Hot Head Show’s frontman Jordan Bennett speaks as though seconds are a vital commodity, his strange speeches between songs are thousand word essays lodged into ten-second long lulls in the proceedings. Apparently, Hot Head Show have been all over Europe this past month, and Bennett jokingly complains to the crowd that he and his cohorts have been unable to find a decent cup of tea in that period. To show his thanks for having his favourite libation returned to him, he asks us to give a round of applause for the Queen who makes sure that tea is plentiful in her land. A strange entity is this band but, seeing as they are supporting Primus, they need to be. Their musical style is a fiery blend of flamenco, funk, psychadelia and jazz, and it’s perfect music to get people in the mood for weirdness. Make no mistake, I highly enjoyed this band’s work, and their latest album ‘The Lemon LP’ is well worth a listen. When they finish their set, they’re given a hearty cheer and round of applause from the Academy crowd. They’ve certainly earned their praise tonight.
As the stage is set up for our headliners, the PA plays the sound of gears popping and grinding as the roadies get things ready. I thought the place was full before, but now I can’t move from the press of bodies around me. Already I can feel sweat start to bead on my brow and slide its way down my spine. Twelve years of waiting for this night. When the lights go dark and the cogs stop turning, the crowd erupts like the Big Bang. Showtime.
Les Claypool is the oddest person I have ever seen. From his Ministry Of Silly Walks stride to his glasses that turn his eyes into blue, red or green supernovas through the night’s proceedings, I am utterly in awe of how perfectly weird he is. When he slaps his Carl Thompson bass to start the show with ‘Pudding Time’, the crowd instantly frenzies and already there are crowd surfers popping up everywhere. One song in and Primus have the packed audience already in the palms of their hands.
The set never hits a sour note through the whole proceedings. One particular moment of note is when Les wears an ape mask and starts sawing away on the strangest electric double bass I’ve ever seen (it has an adjustable headstock which he slams up and down like an ancient water pump). This man is a terrifying symmetry between talent and insanity and has never looked happier to be in Primus than he looks tonight in the Academy.
That’s not to put down the other members of this strange trio. Not by any means: Larry LaLonde is tonight a guitar-slamming Dennis The Menace, his red and black striped jersey accentuating his youthful exuberance and his raw talent. During one part where Les’s bass decides to cut out, Ler is there to save the day with a solo that’d make any erstwhile virtuoso green with envy. Without a doubt, Larry LaLonde is one of the most underrated guitarists in the history of music.
Rounding up the group is Jay Lane, the original Primus drummer who has returned from the mists of rock ambiguity and has planted his rhythmic feet firmly back on the musical mainland. His playing is tight, technical and terrific. Jay Lane’s inclusion in the lineup has certainly breathed a vibrant new life into Primus: classics like ‘Southbound Pachyderm’ and ‘Eleven’ have a renewed intensity, and new songs like ‘Lee Van Cleef’ are wonderful to hear for all Primus fans. I can’t wait for their new album.
Les addresses the reason why it’s been so long since Primus have played here with a delightful frankness: “I’ve had shit to do.” Well, I’m glad that he’s got his “shit” sorted and has returned to Primus. When he brings the show to a close with a stunning rendition of ‘John The Fisherman’, the smile on my face can be seen from orbit.
Astronauts, crowd surfers, moshers and loons. Primus have been going for well over twenty years and, judging by the reaction from the rabid crowd, may they continue being the oddest band on the planet for twenty more.