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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Surrealism, Finesse in Primus Show

August 25, 1995|SANDY MASUO

Primus is one oddball outfit. The San Francisco trio's eccentric blend of funk, hard-rock and jazz is airtight and volatile, with strong indications of kinship to Rush. Yet Primus' music is warped with a dose of surrealism that gives it a lurid, freak-show appeal.

So it was appropriate that the group's concert Wednesday at the Universal Amphitheatre was prefaced by piped-in carnival music and volleys of condom balloons, besides the usual chants of "Primus sucks" from the faithful. And for anyone who may have doubted the affectionate irony of the crowd's jeers, Primus soon set the record straight.

Led by singer-bassist Les Claypool, who strode around the stage like a human stork in dark glasses and a bowler hat, they plowed through nearly two hours of material culled from their six-year career with power and finesse. Claypool's animated bass lines and Larry LaLonde's bracing guitar work entwined cooperatively one moment, then snarled aggressively the next, while Tim Alexander propelled it all forward with precision drumming. "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" was especially charged, transforming the audience into a sea of bouncing bodies.

The disembodied sounds that twist and lunge out of Primus' albums can be a bit overwhelming, but on stage they brought it all down to earth.

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