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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Primus and Mastodon at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island

| June 7, 2018

On paper and in concert, this is an odd bill: Primus, a quirky and influential alternative band from the 1990s, touring with Mastodon, a contemporary metal band at the peak of its career. In common, both bands stuck to their artistic visions on Wednesday.

Headliners Primus, led by bass virtuoso Les Claypool who virtually reinvented how to play the instrument, mixed songs most fans came to hear (from 1989’s Frizzle Fry album, for example) with songs from its latest album (The Desaturating Seven), which most fans merely humored.

The band’s ninth studio album is an indulgent art-rock project from Claypool: a concept album based on the children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. The story goes that these goblins have robbed the world of its color by stealing it from a rainbow. The tracks are mostly free-form instrumentation – Claypool explores the sonic possibilities with his electric bass while relating the tale of these goblins in singsong voice. It’s a tedious affair with enough flashes of songwriting brilliance to reveal a band favoring artistic expression over commercially minded songwriting. Primus fans expect no less.

The crowd revelled in the older songs featuring classic Primus storytelling amid rumbling bass, soaring guitar leads and uptempo drumming. Songs “Tommy The Cat,” “Too Many Puppies,” “My Name Is Mud” and “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver” are seminal alternative rock songs that have cemented Primus as one of the most original and influential genre-blending bands of its time.

Mastodon opened its set with “Sultan’s Curse,” winner of the 2017 Grammy for Best Metal Performance, and from there gave the crowd a survey of songs from albums spanning 2002’s “Remission” debut to 2017’s Emperor of Sand.

“Crystal Skull,” “Black Tongue,” “Bladecatcher” and others are requisite songs at a Mastodon show, but the band also played a lesser-known track from 2017’s A Cold Dark Place EP: “Toes To Toes” featured a more mellow and melodic approach compared to the band’s more hard-rocking aesthetic.

Newer tracks “Show Yourself” and “Steambreather” energized the crowd the most as lyrics sung by the audience drowned out Troy Sanders’, Brent Hinds’ and Brann Dailor’s miked vocal efforts.

– Review by Jason Scales,  Photos by Ed Spinelli

Primus setlist:
Too Many Puppies
Sgt. Baker
Those Damned Blue-collar Tweekers
Tommy The Cat
Southbound Pachyderm
From “The Desaturating Seven” album:
The Valley
The Seven
The Trek
The Scheme
The Dream
The Storm
The Ends?
Welcome To This World
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was A Racecar Driver
Here Come The Bastards
John The Fisherman

Mastodon setlist:
Sultan’s Curse
Crystal Skill
Ancient Kingdom
Black Tongue
Ember City
Toes to Toes
Sleeping Giant
Show Yourself
Precious Stones
Roots Remain
Ghost of Karelia
Mother Puncher

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