Live review: Les Claypool

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Les Claypool w/ O'Death

Neighborhood Theatre

May 26, 2009

Photos coming soon!

The Deal: Primus frontman showcases his solo stuff in front of a packed Neighborhood Theatre.

The Good: The night began with a quirky set by O'Death who entertained with their unique brand of Americana splashed with metal energy. It was the band's first time performing in Charlotte, and one that I'd recommend you check out the next time they're in town. Granted, they weren't the best band I'd ever heard, but they sure as hell were entertaining.

Claypool kicked off the night with "Highball with the Devil" from his first solo album, followed by "Amanitas" off of his latest CD, "Of Fungi and Foe." It was a clear indication that the night would highlight both of those albums.

A few songs into his roughly hour-and-a-half set, Claypool found time to address a woman in the front row who was releasing a fair amount of high-pitched screams. "I understand that you're excited and unleashing joy, but every time you do that, it's like a pterodactyl poking into my ear. Can you just hum along or take it down a little?" While Claypool spent the majority of the night in a bowler hat, he also found time to put on a pig mask and monkey mask.

Call them the Fungi Band, if you'd like, but the guys backing up Claypool were outstanding. Sam Bass used his cello to fill in where you'd normally hear guitar for a good portion of the night. The drum solo between Paulo Baldi on drums and Mike Dillon on percussion was outstanding. I hadn't heard someone so skilled with a tambourine before, but Dillon definitely gave me a new appreciation for what can be done with one.

"One Better" which rambled on for what seemed like an eternity while the band jammed along in the middle into other songs, got some of the most crowd participation of the night, along with "D's Diner." While it's likely that no one expected Claypool to perform any songs from the Primus catalog, a screw-up in the intro to "Awakening" during "One Better" led him to "pay penance by performing the intro to 'Tommy the Cat,'" which got the crowd in a frenzy. A second splash of Primus was heard as the final encore of the night was "Southbound Pachyderm."

The Bad: There were a lot of technical difficulties during the set. A chord had to be replaced to Claypool's bass, his bullet microphone was on the fritz and replaced and he didn't seem to be too happy with the sound of his bass at times.

I was a little amazed at the number of drunk people in the audience who continuously yelled things at Les, from the simple to the perverse. Seriously, no one wants to hear you yell, "Shit, fuck!" or "69!" over and over. Someone continued to yell "Keep your day job!" to him, as well. What's the story there? He followed it up with "Early '90s baby, yeah!" when the singer couldn't understand him, which Claypool found hilarious. "Early '90s baby... that brings me within a few years of Tears for Fears. Perhaps I'll play something from the early '90s for you tonight," Claypool said, getting a huge amount of applause from those hoping to hear hints of Primus in the night. Claypool followed it up with a wavering a capella version of the chorus of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy."

The Verdict: Claypool remains one of the most entertaining and extraordinary bass players ever. Though no matter how much fun his show last night was, it's not Primus.

Setlist

Highball with the Devil

Amanitas

Fisticuffs

Red State Girl

Precipitation

Calling Kyle

Drum solo> Drum and Whamola Jam

Booneville Stomp

One Better> Glide tease> Awakening (aborted)> Tommy the Cat intro> One Better

Granny's Little Yard Gnome

D's Diner

Encore

Iowan Gal

Southbound Pachyderm

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