An evening with Primus
Primus - Live At The Royal Albert Hall, London

Billed rather formally as ‘An Evening With Primus’ this two-night residency at the poshest of venues is a rather strange move for these cult rock oddities. Then again, Les, Lar and Jay are strange people thus it makes perfect sense in a round about way. In the world of Primus the surreal is real and it’s time to bring Les Claypool’s demented world of fish, war and slap bass back to the capital after last years winning show in Brixton. Tonight promises to be a more fan centred affair with career highlight ‘Sailing The Seas Of Cheese’ and last years ‘Green Naugahyde’ played in their entirety back to back.

There is no escaping the fact that the majority in attendance are here for 1991’s cheese album, a master class in accessible madness and released at a time when alternative rock was riding high. Surrounded by two astronaut suits seemingly projecting John Malkovich’s head, ‘Here Comes The Bastards’ gets the night off to a stonking start. Sounding as fresh as ever the halls natural acoustics only enhance the number’s bouncy riff. ‘Sgt. Baker’ ups the tempo further, with the small amount in standing trying their best to cause havoc. At times Claypool’s vocals are sadly lost but only due to his mind-boggling bass playing being too damn loud to harness.

Case in point is set highlight ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver’, its overdriven chorus unleashing a demonic roar Clash, nor anyone else by the looks on there faces, had ever experienced before. Predictably ‘Tommy The Cat’ results in the nights sing along moment and after the likes of ‘Those Damn Blue Collared Tweekers’ the first half of the night is soon over and we’re left with a formal intermission and a set of vintage 30s Popeye cartoons for entertainment – as you do.

“Well, I think that’s the last time we’ll ever play ‘Cheese’ in full.” states the frontman before moving onto to newer waters, and we’re sad but grateful to hear it. Things start strongly with ‘Last Salmon Man’ and ‘Eternal Consumption Engine’ bringing some of the bands ‘Frizzle Fry’ era groove to proceedings. Single ‘Tragedy’s a’ Coming’ is undeniably catchy while ‘Eyes Of The Squirrel’ is just so gleefully silly that only owners of a heart of stone wouldn’t smile. Unfortunately after ‘Naugahyde’’s best number ‘Jilly’s On Smack’ things get repetitive for the second half, no amount of amazing musicianship saving the songs from lacking memorable changes.

It’s up to an encore medley of classics to save the night and save they do. At breakneck speed the “three men of power” whip through a host of earlier material, many without words. Then they drop ‘Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver’ a bizarre, cowboy-tinged ode to Winona Ryder’s most private of places, and what a finish. The Hall erupts into cheers at this unexpected treat and the sweat flies as every oddball lyric is spat right back. With a smile and a wave of his bowler hat Mr. Claypool exits stage right.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Will Bunce

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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