On Sunday night, Primus hit the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, performing a headlining set that housed the entirety of their new album, The Desaturating Seven, in addition to takes on a number of fan favorites from throughout their extensive catalog of work. Joining Primus was Mastodon, the Atlanta-born metal group—back in January, the two groups announced that they’d embark on a joint tour over the summer, with the Red Rocks show serving as the tour’s kickoff—as well as All Them Witches, a band that will be joining Primus and Mastodon for select dates in the upcoming tour.
Ahead of Primus’ headlining performance, Mastodon took the stage for one extended set. The band’s fans were well-represented, with the band feeding off the energy of the enthusiastic, sold-out crowd. Standouts of their set spanned the band’s history, including a take on fan-favorite “Ember City”, a relatively new tune off 2014’s Once More ‘Round The Sun, and “Mastodon”, an older tune off 2004’s Leviathan. Toward the end of their set, lead guitarist Brent Hinds thanked the audience for their support, hilariously noting that “We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our cold, dark hearts,” which he followed up with the declaration, “We love marijuana.”
Once the house lights dimmed ahead of Primus’ headlining performance, the crowd greeted the band with chants of “Primus sucks,” a chant that would reemerge during the break before encore. Opening up the show, Primus drew from 1990’s Frizzle Fry, offering up the classic tune “Too Many Puppies”, which was used to bookend a brief take on another older song, “Sgt. Baker” off 1991’s Sailing The Seas Of Cheese.
Primus – “Too Many Puppies”
After this opening combo, Primus’ zany bassist and frontman, Les Claypool, addressed the sold-out venue, declaring that “Red Rocks sucks. I’ve never been to a more boring, uninteresting venue,” which was met with laughs and cheers from the crowd. From there, he explained how lucky the band felt to be performing there, in addition to thanking Mastodon for joining them for their tour, describing their tourmates as Vikings and explaining the “debauchery” the band gets into during tour, “like backgammon and Trivial Pursuit.”
As an intro into the next song, “Last Salmon Man”, Claypool continued with his meandering speech, which touched upon global warming, marijuana as a cash crop, and Northern California’s export of water to Southern California—the latter point, he explained, was the inspiration for the song. Following the 2011 Green Naugahyde hit, the group moved into another Frizzle Fry classic, “Groundhog’s Day”, which featured a cacophonous opening, sliding grooves, and a precise and calculated solo from guitarist Larry LaLonde. Wrapping up this opening segment, Primus landed in a hypnotic and pulsating take on Frizzle Fry‘s title track, much to the delight of the audience.
Primus – “Last Salmon Man”
[Video: Jeremiah Rogers]
[Video: Jeremiah Rogers]
In September of 2017, Primus released their ninth studio album, The Desaturating Seven, the band’s first album of original material since Green Naugahyde in 2011. Given the band’s recent release and their efforts to promote the effort and familiarize fans with the new work, it was fairly unsurprising when the band started in on the first track of the new album, “The Valley”. The tune offers up the exposition—narrated by Justin Chancellor on the album—of The Desaturating Seven, which was inspired by the 1978 children’s book, The Rainbow Goblins, and capitalizes on the eerie story about goblins and rainbows.
After a brief break between “The Valley” and “Frizzle Fry”, Les Claypool reemerged to the stage wearing ram’s horns while Primus drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander took the time to don monk-like robes. With the stage set following “The Valley”, the trio quickly moved into the album’s second song, “The Seven”, which explains that the “desaturating seven” are the colors of the rainbow. As the band worked through the tracks on their newest album, the screens behind them showed scenes from the book, further immersing the crowd in the fantastic, goblin-filled world in which the story takes place.
For “The Trek”, Larry LaLonde switched over to an acoustic guitar for the song’s opening, before the band landed in the tune’s galloping beat and dramatic changes between dark, bounding verses and spacious, more ambient sections. The ground then deftly transitioned into “The Scheme”, continuing on with prominent, marching beat of “The Trek”, before landing in “The Dream”. After the song’s intro, it built to a powerful climax, its powerful guitar underpinned by Les Claypool’s intense bassline.
“The Trek” > “The Scheme”
[Video: Jeremiah Rogers]
An abrupt stop and a staticky intro marked the beginning of the “The Storm”, as the graphics matched the tune with depictions of rain. Eventually, the screens began to show images of a gorgeous coastline, while the song itself opened itself into a spacey and slide-heavy portion before arriving in the grinding weight of the tune. Ominous throughout, the song built to a frenetic, fast-paced jam which was met with huge cheers from the crowd.
As Primus’ play-through of The Desaturating Seven began to wrap up, Tim “Herb” Alexander started off the final song, “The End?” with a steady and sparse drum solo, with Claypool and LaLonde slowly adding in. With Claypool stationed on his upright bass, the tune reworked the familiar themes from the album, with guitarist LaLonde eventually returning to the acoustic guitar for a cascading solo to end the album in full.
The trio departed the stage momentarily at the end of The Desaturating Seven before Claypool returned to the stage and thanked fans for “engaging in our goblin party.” He continued, “Now that we are in a goblin mood, I don’t see the moon, but I do see rocks, and I feel content that we got to play with the Vikings of Mastodon.” Claypool, quirky as ever, introduced the band’s next song as “an obscure number, I believe by Neil Diamond” before offering up their 1995 fan favorite “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”.
The heavy-rock tune signaled Primus’ sprint to the end of their set, which they followed up with “Welcome To This World”, off 1993’s Pork Soda. With a meandering intro, the band then offered up another of their most celebrated songs, “My Name Is Mud”, with Claypool laying out a truly virtuosic bass solo, casually strolling around the stage and milking the audience’s response as he continued his rapid-fire playing to end out the song. Finishing out their set and quickly approaching the curfew of 11 p.m., the band ran through a high-energy take of another fan favorite, “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver”, much to the delight of the crowd, before departing from the stage. For the band’s truncated encore, they offered up yet another classic tune, “John The Fisherman”, giving drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander the time to shine with the song’s opening drum solo before tearing through the high-octane song.
“Welcome To This World”
[Video: Jeremiah Rogers]
Primus’ headlining performance at Red Rocks on Sunday night confirmed to fans that the band’s latest album has staying power in their catalog. While the band has always had a penchant for theatrics, the group’s play-through of The Desaturating Seven was a voyage in and of itself, delighting and captivating the sold-out crowd with its whimsical, if not dark, storyline. Paired with exceptional musicianship, the album’s focus on narrative could come off as cliche or overdone, yet Primus was attentive to let the music speak for itself, making for a truly exceptional experience.
Wisely, given the focus on new material, the group bookended their performance of The Desaturating Seven with an onslaught of fan favorites from their older catalog, ensuring that older fans would hav their taste of Primus’ mainstays to keep them content and open-minded to their newest studio effort. With Mastodon sharing the bill, the group’s tour-opening performance bodes well for the rest of the run. Make sure to catch Primus and Mastodon when they come to a city near you; you won’t want to miss out. And as always, Primus sucks.
Setlist: Primus | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 5/6/2018
Set: Too Many Puppies > Sgt. Baker > Puppies, Last Salmon Man, Groundhog’s Day, Frizzle Fry, The Valley, The Seven, The Trek, The Scheme, The Dream, The Storm, The End?, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, Welcome To This World, My Name Is Mud, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
Encore: John The Fisherman