Review: An Evening with Primus @ Great American Music Hall, SF 7/18/10

Photo by Justin Ward

With a last minute show only announced a week ago and sold-out in a minute or less based on some estimates, Primus returned to the stage last night at the Great American Music Hall for a night labeled “An Evening With…” The room was packed with sweat, testosterone, and an absolutely mind-blowing performance through two sets of music. This was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.

The show started right around 8:30pm and opened solidly with “Pudding Time,” but I probably raged the hardest after that warmup when Les started the bass intro to “Here Come the Bastards.” I’ve been fondly smitten with this song since they opened their Outside Lands set with that a few years ago. The crowd was bouncing along and generally starting to vibe off the fact that we were, in fact, standing just feet from these geniuses on the stage. I couldn’t get over it.

The show continued with first set treats like “Those Damn Blue-Collared Tweekers,” which featured a super slow build at the intro and a nice little set of roto-tom fills from the latest change/addition to the group ala Jay Lane, plus oldies like “Groundhog’s Day” and “Mr Krinkle.” Most every jam and song in the set got what I’d call the standard Primus treatment, which is Les at the mic spewing some logic while Larry looks down at his guitar and pedals through a veil of hair, then an explosion of noise gets a crowd jumping while Les struts back and forth on stage militantly, smiling and laughing like a clown the entire time. Add a giant Mad Hatter style top-hat to this mix and some pounding drums, and you’ve got yourself a Primus show.

“Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” closed out a monumental first set, which really did have a bit of everything. We had already been treated to half a night of “more Primus than we’d ever want,” as Les bantered early in the show. It was clear he was enjoying himself, but it also seemed like this was a big warmup for the tour for the band. The stage lights were kept mostly dark all night. Cameras were confiscated when you entered the venue preventing anything with a Flash to enter the building save for a few smartphones, and I even got asked to put away my iPhone when I snatched a shot of the band later in the show. All of this seemed to contribute to the idea that we were witnessing a unique, intimate show. The band didn’t want the highlights on the internet, and here I am trying to sum it all up for the unlucky folks that couldn’t snag their tickets fast enough. Point is, events like this only come along once in a while and I’m glad like hell that my buddy Pete had quick fingers when the tickets went on sale.

Back to the show — two sets of Primus. The venue is an absolute sweatbox, and I’m dripping soaked with sweat after set one and a warm setbreak spent camping in the same spot we held for set one. And wonderfully, we get “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” to open set two, which brought the energy back in the room up to its peak and held it there for all 10 minutes or so of the song. The mosh pit raged on. Fiasco disappeared only to return much sweatier and sans t-shirt. What a riot.

The beat for “Tommy the Cat” had been going for a few seconds before I recognized what it was over the roar of the crowd, and by the end of the song the entire place was pulsing. “Say baby do you wanna lay down by me” was shouted at full volume with me and a bunch of dudes in my proximity. Then “Sgt. Baker,” an absolute stomp fest that kept me yelling along and bouncing and sweating all over my friends. “Yes sir, yes sir!” I loved the addition of “Over the Falls” to the set, which nicely calmed everyone down a bit before “My Name is Mud.” By now, more of my crew had disappeared into the swell of people in the middle of the floor moshing each other around in a classic circle pit, in one of the most ornate and beautiful theaters in all of San Francisco, mind you. To look over and see two of my buddies just kinda pinball-ing around the pit was something I won’t forget anytime soon…

“Harold on the Rocks” closed the set and made way for a quick encore break before the band closed the show with “John the Fisherman” and a haunting “Too Many Puppies” with patented Les Claypool hand to the crowd movements. The house lights came on before we got a second encore, which I felt could have been appropriate given how wickedly they had just slayed the entire audience, but that’s not saying at all that we wanted more because we had been disappointed. No, by this point, everyone had their jaws sufficiently dropped by the performance and many people were thankful that the aural assault was over with.

My crew and I got home and sauntered unwillingly back to the grind that is Sunday night as you have to mentally prepare for Monday. We didn’t want the night to end. “It’s Saturday, right?” joked my friend. It sure felt like it.

As I finished up my fanboy thoughts this morning, I read this show review at Spinning Platters and wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment in the post. The show was all about the music, some great tunes from a past repertoire that needs to remain part of the live music world going forward, and I have to believe that Les and crew were happy with the way things went down. Jay Lane fit right in with a mix of Herb and Brain style drumming which fits for a larger section of the band’s song history. The music was intense. “Thundering” as some live DVD’s would have it be known.

As I set my status message to “Primus Sucks” this morning and fended off pings from friends that weren’t as versed in the history of the band and why that actually means “I like Primus,” I’m still psyched on the show and what we all got to witness. For the folks that missed it, sorry brahs. You missed a really good one.


Set I: Pudding Time, Here Come The Bastards, Ground Hog’s Day, Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers, Duchess And The Proverbial Mind Spread, De Anza Jig, Seas of Cheese, Mr. Krinkle, Eleven, Bob, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
Set II: To Defy The Laws Of Tradition, Tommy the Cat, Sgt. Baker, Frizzle Fry, Golden Boy, American Life, Over the Falls, My Name Is Mud, Kalamazoo, Harold of the Rocks
Encore: John the Fisherman, Too Many Puppies