There was a moment at the Primus concert last night at Orpheum Theatre when bassist Les Claypool left the stage and came back wearing a mask, joining the droning groove his bandmates Larry "Ler" LaLonde (guitar) and Tim "Herb" Alexander (drums) were maintaining. The audience gave a raucous cheer. At this point, the band was just performing in front of a bare curtain, and you got the sense that some in the audience thought the big reveal was coming.
Well, it didn't, not to take anything away from the first set of the Primus concert last night. The mask wasn't the only costume Claypool and company would don, and the best was yet to come.
Primus' concert broke into two halves, with a lengthy intermission between the two. The first half was a regular Primus set, the second was something altogether different -- twisted and psychedelic. The latest Primus project is Primus and the Chocolate Factory, a dark, corroded re-imagining of the iconic soundtrack from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl's classic children's book. Each doomed, greedy child character has a song, and each Oompa Loompa interlude lives on, warped and stained by Primus' weird aesthetic. Elaborate set pieces, costumes, and a giant video screen made for an enthralling night.
The first half of the show was great -- just one of the best rock trios of the '90s executing their craft at the highest level. The band sounded very good through the sound system at the Orpheum, and when the band sank into the deep groove of "My Name is Mud," the combination of Alexander's double-bass drumming and Claypool's four-string swept over the audience in a tidal wave of low frequencies.
But the best was yet to come. After the lengthy admission, where fans braved unusually long beer lines to buy $6 domestic bottles and $7 imports, the real fun began. Primus revealed their stage -- a candy-colored set with an enormous mushroom and lollipop flanking the band. The centerpiece was a giant video screen, which showed footage from the movie, only with spliced-in psychedelic colors and videos, as well as other editing overlays that gave the warm, magical film a warped and twisted feel. During each Oompa Loompa interlude, two Oompa Loompas in oversized masks came out and bounced up and down to the music.
The whole show was fascinating, a testament to what can happen when a bunch of talented people take a weird idea and push it into reality. If you missed this sold-out show, you missed something special.
Last Night: Primus at Orpheum Theatre
The Venue: Gorgeous as ever. The concert was so theatrical, so it was a perfect fit for the venue. Exactly the type of high-production concert that fits so perfectly in the ornate theater hall.
Overheard: "This is fucking amazing" -- a stoned-sounding guy behind me, who said this a lot during the show.
Personal Bias: I came within minutes of not seeing this show, and I am very thankful I didn't leave.
Primus Sucks: Claypool stopped the show at one point. "Let's stop the show so that this guy can tell me how much I suck." Everyone knows Primus sucks, people. Don't yell it at the band when you're 15 feet away from them.
Random Notebook Dump: "I feel like I'm reviewing a movie. I don't want to spoil the plot."
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