Picture Show: Primus @ Congress Theater

Primus @ Congress Theater, October 14

I had only seen Primus once before their throwdown at the Congress Theater in Chicago last Friday, and it was the infamous Bonnaroo 2004 latenight set, so large expectations were looming up front…and the band delivered. Primus is touring behind their new record, Green Naugahyde, so I assumed the setlist would be heavy on new material, but didn’t realize until the gig that the whole second set would consist of the new record performed in its entirety.

The first set was flawlessly executed, as expected, relying on classic material but not much of the truly “name” tunes. Mr. Claypool was his usual self, leading the band through tunes with a casual focus that is unparalleled – truly a man comfortable in his own musical and personal skin. Drummer Jay Lane breathed new life into this set – and that’s not at all a dig on Tim “Herb” Alexander – the guy is just a fucking animal. Lane expertly navigated the twists and turns with the hard-hitting polyrhythmic prowess of Danny Carey juxtaposed against a Glenn Kotche-like musicality and control of dynamics. The band viciously plowed through the set, rarely stopping to address the audience, before ending with the one-two punch of Jerry was a Race Car Driver and Over the Electric Grapevine before exiting the stage without even a word. No sooner did Electric Grapevine end than a classic Popeye cartoon began to play on the massive LED backdrop, making for the most entertaining setbreak I’ve been a part of in ages.

I won’t lie to you, innernette, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the second set. Ending the show with a full new record? From a band who hasn’t really been making new music in over a decade? That’s asking a lot of your fans, no matter who you are. I’d even spun the new record a few times leading up to the show, and didn’t love nor hate it – it just sounded like Primus. After, what was for all intents and purposes a decade away from it, the fact that the band could come out with something so on par is impressive, however the record never really ‘clicked’ for me…until the second set last week.

I get it now. The new material is good. Really fucking good. It’s everything you love about Primus, but also nothing you’ve heard from Les and company before. This set was full of dark, twisting, improvisational psychedelic madness – and was also undeniably Primus. While never detracting (quite the opposite, in fact), guitarist Larry “Lar” LaLonde didn’t truly shine until the second set. He owned the new material, providing the angularly melodic counterpoint to the multifaceted rhythmic brute of Claypool and Lane.

Long story short, I was fairly blown away. A friend put it best when he said “only a band like Primus can pull that off, and I think it’s because they were neither relevant nor irrelevant to begin with – they just were Primus…and now there’s more of it.”

If you dig Primus, check out Green Naugahyde and go see them on tour. You will not be disappointed. If you don’t – why the fuck are you still reading this?

Primus sucks anyways.

Set 1: To Defy the Laws of Tradition, Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread, Groundhog’s Day, The Pressman, Over The Falls, Drum and Whamola Jam, Eleven, Mrs. Blaileen, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, Over the Electric Grapevine

Set 2: Green Naugahyde in its entirety

Encore: Harold of the Rocks, Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver

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