–by Sean Derrick
Anyone who has listened to Primus over the past 30 years has certainly heard influences of one of the most important progressive rock bands of all time, Rush. It’s not hard to notice the inspiration Rush had in Primus’s music. Bassist Les Claypool has repeatedly spoken of how he was obsessed with Rush growing up, so it is not a surprise that Primus would pay tribute to Rush in one form or fashion.
That form came in a decision to perform the Rush classic A Farewell to Kings, live, in it’s entirety. The 1977 classic that helped Rush breakthrough internationally. It was also the following year that Claypool went to his first concert and was blown away by Rush performing at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. He told the audience he became obsessed with everything Rush and drew comparisons between the Rush fandom and Star Trek fandoms.
The fashion emerged as an ode to Neil Peart, (but not because of the late drummer’s death. It began before Peart passed away in January of last year) as Claypool put it, with the same brand of instruments used in recording the classic album. Claypool used a double neck Rickenbacker 4080 bass as well as a Minimoog to replicate the classic Rush sound, while guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde implemented a series of Gibson guitars, the same type as Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson used in making the album.
The show itself was split into two sets, the first being a nearly 70 minute set of classic Primus cuts. And when I say classic I mean classic. Sure, they played some signature tunes like “My Name is Mud”, “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”, and “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers”. But they also went deep, grabbing into the well of yesteryear with deep album cuts like “Harold of the Rocks” (From their first album, 1990’s Fizzle Fry, and “Sgt. Baker” from 1991’s Sailing the Seas of Cheese.
In fact they only played one song after 1997: “Lee Van Cleef” from their 2011 album Green Naugahyde.
After a 20 minute intermission the band returned in classic Rush form, with even Claypool donning a blue silk robe (to harken back to when Rush would wear the robes while onstage in the early days). The attention to detail was amazing. Claypool even consulted with Rush bassist (and friend) Geddy Lee in preparation for the tour.
From the opening acoustic chords from LaLonde on “A Farewell to Kings” to the ending electric chords one could see this was a labor of love.
This isn’t new territory for Primus, either. They did a similar style back in 2014 when they did a complete set of their remake of the songs from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the great Primus & the Chocolate Factory With the Fungi Ensemble) and in 2017 when their 2nd set was their album The Desaturating Seven in its entirety. I love when bands do that, especially if the album is a concept album (Maybe they can continue on that concept by performing the follow-up Hemispheres on their next tour? Just a thought).
As hard as Rush is to emulate I think Primus did a masterful job reprising the intricate detail coupled with the feel for the songs, not just a cover band rehashing the songs. There was an intense feel emanating from the stage, something special that would make any Rush fan, and Rush themselves, proud.
If you are a Rush fan, or obviously a Primus fan, this is an absolute must see. The first time I saw Primus was at The Arena opening for Rush in 1994 on Rush’s “Counterparts Tour”. I remember thinking back then that it was a great pairing and actually wondered if they could tackle Rush songs. My question has been answered with a resounding yes.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery after the setlist below.
The tour continues through the end of October:
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Harold of the Rocks
Lee Van Cleef
Last Salmon Man
Here Come the Bastards
Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats
My Name is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Set 2 (A Farewell to Kings):
A Farewell to Kings (Rush cover)
Xanadu (Rush Cover)
Closer to the Heart (Rush cover)
Cinderella Man (Rush cover)
Madrigal (Rush cover)
Cygnus X-1 (Rush cover)
Too Many Puppies