There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the Albert Hall before the show began on April 4th. This night would be Primus’ third show in Britain in nearly 15 years. To make things even more interesting, Les Claypool (QRO interview) had announced that Primus were to play both the entirety of 1991’s seminal album, Sailing The Seas of Cheese and their latest album, Green Naugahyde (QRO review). To say that the lucky Primus fans present were pleased to be there would be an understatement.
In typical Primus fashion, there were two inflatable astronauts flanking the stage, along with a large screen playing snippets of film and animation throughout the show. Musically, Primus are peerless. Les Claypool is of course always going to be the main attraction of the distinctly funky, irreverent, bass-driven trio, but guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane provide a fantastic backing for Claypool’s own brand of ‘eccentricity’, particularly during the several extended jams scattered throughout the set. No one is quite like Primus, either live or in the studio; often described as funk-metal or funk-rock, Primus are not easily categorised and often seem to defy logic. Claypool doesn’t so much sing as provide a rapid-fire stream of quirky lyrics over the top of his trademark bass grooves; perhaps the clearest comparison to make would be to Frank Zappa.
The first half of Primus’ show was a play through of Sailing The Seas of Cheese, the crowd joyfully singing and air-bassing along to classics "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" and "Tommy The Cat", and times stunned into silence by the sheer audacity, madness and weirdness of some of Claypool’s more experimental bass lines. Despite not saying much until the second half of Green Naugahyde, it’s clear that the band and the crowd are feeding off each other brilliantly. Claypool himself is obviously in awe of the venue itself, stating that, "We may as well retire now we’ve played the Albert Hall… It’s all downhill from here."
If Sailing The Seas of Cheese went down perfectly, the second half of the show (after a half hour intermission during which the crowd were kept in high spirits by several old episodes of Popeye) was a little disappointing; Green Naugahyde doesn’t have quite the same groove to it as Sailing The Seas of Cheese. Musically, if anything, Primus performed even better towards the end of the night, but the material just doesn’t quite live up to the bombastic brilliance of the earlier portion. This doesn’t much bother the energetic crowd, though, who seem fantastically happy to be in the arena together with Primus, watching Claypool, LaLonde and Lane at the self-declared height of their career, at their utterly surreal best.