Gymnastic elephants, slices of Swiss cheese and hundreds of eyeballs swirled above an astonished audience Friday at the Uptown Theater. Part of the first rock tour to feature three-dimensional visuals, the concert by Primus was visually and sonically arresting.
Members of the audience of more than 1,500 were provided with special viewing glasses. Flanked by two enormous astronaut suits inhabited by a representation of a curious man, a video screen projected a stream of videos that complimented Primus' challenging output. Objects seemingly spiraled from the screen. The most exciting three-dimensional effects pulled viewers inward. One convincing graphic made Primus appear as if it was performing on an outdoor stage.
The quadraphonic sound intended to correlate with the striking display was slightly disappointing. Several sets of supplemental speakers were positioned on both sides of the venue's main floor. The sonic experimentation didn't offer a unified experience. The sound was crisp and bright throughout the spacious venue, but the aural experience varied. Fans in the center of the audience could only detect the sonic manipulations when Primus' audio engineer silenced the primary sound system. People positioned in the immediate vicinity of the additional speakers could hear isolated elements of the performance that included filtered vocals, Les Claypool's elastic bass and Larry LaLonde's intricate guitar work. These delightfully disorienting sounds weren't audible in the balcony.
Not including a 25-minute intermission in which three vintage Popeye the Sailor cartoons were screened, Primus performed for almost 2 1/2 hours. Obscured in shadows, the trio struck an ideal balance between inventive improvisation and tactful moderation. No solos, riffs or songs became tiresome. New material like the harrowing "Jilly's on Smack" and the authoritative flow of "Last Salmon Man" were no less compelling that old favorites like "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver." Claypool and LaLonde are widely acknowledged as masters of their instruments. The playing of the relatively unheralded drummer Jay Lane was no less extraordinary.
The evening began with LaLonde replicating an air raid siren. LaLonde's disturbing introduction may have been aimed at other musicians. Although Primus' compelling music doesn't require a gimmick, the entertaining innovations the band displayed Friday serve to further elevate audience expectations.
Set list (from Primusville.com): '
First set: Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers, Last Salmon Man, Dirty Drowning Man, Southbound Pachyderm, Glass Sandwich, Jilly's on Smack, Bob, Jerry was a Race Car Driver, Over the Electric Grapevine
Second set: Extinction Burst, The Heckler, Over the Falls, Hats Off, Spegetti Western, Moron TV, Hamburger Train, Del Davis, Hello Skinny, Groundhog's Day, Hoinfodaman, Too Many Puppies/Pudding Time
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star