Friday, March 20, 2009

Les Claypool at the Fillmore 14 March, 2009

At this point, I've lost count of how many times I've seen Les Claypool live. Between Primus, Sausage, Oysterhead and his various solo incarnations it's been at least 20 times over the years. Even with all of those various ensembles and configurations his current touring lineup might just be the most intriguing yet. Joined by frequent cohorts Mike Dillon on percussion and Paulo Baldi on drums, the quartet was rounded out by cellist Sam Bass. That's right, a cellist. While Claypool's distinctive bass gave the ensemble a familiar grounding, the unusual lineup had more of an old-time theatrical flair.

And theatrics was definitely the name of the game on this tour. Dubbed The Oddity Faire, the tour featured a circus theme with sideshow performers entertaining in between sets of the multiple support acts. First on the bill were Secret Chiefs 3, who I was almost as excited to see as the headliners. Led by ex-Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance, the Chiefs dress in black robes and play middle eastern flavored rock with elements of thrash, electronica and various other influences. They are an extremely talented group and I certainly hope they come back for a headlining show soon as 30 minutes was not nearly enough. Poet-rapper Saul Williams followed in his glammed-out Niggy Tardust guise. The Yard Dogs Road Show provided the peak of the theatrics with their burlesque-cabaret performance.

Finally, the headliners took the stage, Les leading his mates through a spirited rendition of the Primus tune "Fisticuffs." The setlist touched on material from all of his solo releases included the brand new Of Fungi and Foe. There was a surprise guest midway through the set in the form of former Frog Brigade guitarist Eanor, who joined the band for an amazing cover of King Crimson's "Thela Hun Ginjeet," easily the highlight of the evening. Midway through the set was the now-customary drums-percussion showcase, with Les joining in on his unique one-stringed instrument dubbed the Whamola. The night was topped off with an encore of Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral," the headbanging classic given a chamber-rock makeover that delighted the packed house. Once again, Les Claypool delivered an evening of superb musicianship and entertainment.

- Adam Reshotko

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