Most bands can be broken down to into its essential elements. (For example, Silversun Pickups sound like Smashing Pumpkins doing a Sonic Youth impression -- whether it's bad or awesome is your call.) For Primus, all you can say is, "Well, they sound like Primus." Sometimes sounding too much like Primus can be a bad thing, though.
As the heroes of my high school years, Les Claypool was a shining beacon of bizarre in the mundane fog of my teenage existence. When I caught them at the Uptown last night, much to my surprise and disappointment, I found a more jammy, less weird band in its place.
Perhaps it was the blazing, hell-like temperature inside the Uptown that drove me to this conclusion. Gogol Bordello seemed to play forever and -- while its mix of traditional music, punk, country and a sprinkle of hip-hop (the band has a hype man on par with Flavor Flav) was energetic -- the songs grew tedious and repetitious.
The high point of Gogol Bordello's set was either the absolutely perfect "Wanderlust King" or the band's fiery partial cover of The Doors "L.A. Woman." Eugene Hütz was flawless as the fearless Gypsy Punk King, but it was too much: too many members, too many theatrics, too much shtick.
I'm sure with a better sound mix and some quality A/C, Gogol Bordello would've had enough juice to knock Flogging Molly out of my "Best Live Traditional Folk Punk Band" slot; but tonight, they weren't quite up to it.
Primus had its bright spots, too. The classic lineup of Claypool, Jay Lane and Larry LaLonde were all there; but, instead of blowing out of the box with something mind-bending to go along with the thirty-foot-tall inflatable Astronauts with TV screen faces and a light show on the level with Pink Floyd (circa 1973), they opened with "Those Damn Blue Collared Tweekers," and only got more obscure with their cuts as they went along.
This was a show for serious aficionados of the Primus back catalog. Claypool and co. had 99 percent of the hundreds of fans in the theater eating out of its hand; but, aside from the fact that I finally saw the Jimi Hendrix of Electric Bass shred his strings like a hummingbird on speed, I can't say that I was blown away. They're still the same band that once ruled all of Kooky Town with Les Claypool as the cornball, hillbilly Emperor, but they've lost a touch of their energy.
The strangeness was there, but it felt a bit phoned in -- like Les and the boys had figured about the exact right amount of quirky to cram into the stage show so the fans love it, and didn't push it any further.
I saw two groups legendary for their live shows stumble a bit last night, but that's okay. Even the weirdos have their off-days.