The pounding rain beat on the eager concert goers outside the PNE Forum last night. The eager queue was present to bare witness to openers Portugal the Man and headliners Primus. The prior played an astonishing set, setting up the latter for failure, by setting the bar so high. Primus still played an intense and rhythmically captivating set, but fell short of the blow up performance of their opening accompaniment . All in all it was a perfect lesson in Saturday night jams.
Waiting outside the tin box they call the Forum, it was rainy. Not just a little but massive, buckets of cold stinging droplets saturating the unprepared platoon of fanatics. There were no umbrellas in sight. But still they were ecstatic to be waiting. Their smiling little faces eager to enter the arena and make their way to the stage and set roots. It was high energy before the show even started. Once inside their were two stops groups to choose from; consumer or anticipatory music lover. It was a fifty fifty split, as much of the horde chose to purchase food, merchandise or beer and the others rushed to shove their way into the best listening position possible.
Portugal the Man took the stage and the entire gathering before them went silent; an eerie hush. Then the set commenced and it was like the calm before the storm, each song built a story. Their multi dimensional jam was complex and captivating. Spanish tones overlaid with heroin electronics and digital whiny organs. Vocally they were diverse and vulnerable, and really hit a chord with the soul. The light setup was simple. Adding a certain mystic sense to the display. It would be hard to pigeon hold this band into a category because they have many aspects. At points they were crosses between Vampire Weekend meets Mars Volta and others they were Stevie Ray Vaughn guitars meet Jonsi’esque voicing. Portugal the Man is the band to listen to.
During the end of the openers performance a chant started to erupt from the crowd. Slowly and quiet at frst, then it spread like wild fire. The repetitive words echoed through the steel box in which we stood – Fuck Primus, Fuck Primus. The band who was to lead-in to the headliner, had blown the audience away. They had won over the mass and built some new fans. It was a great site to witness.
Primus took the stage after a short intermission and really were unaffected by their stage warmers performance. In the backdrop of the stage their were two giant astronauts, with televisions for face masks. As the band filtered to the stage, projections of men making silly faces were displayed on these sets. It made for an entertaining visual.
The headliners were rhythmic and stoic. Owning the stage with their experience and getting the horde in attendance involved right away. Screams occasionally still emitted randomly, projecting the same chant as earlier. Just now they were drowned out by the howling of the fanatics, blinded by their saviors. It was an immediate shift. Something you would expect.
The set was rich with new and old pieces. The problem with their performance was the lack of energy. The only one in the entire band who seemed to be having any fun was the man on the skins. What originally seemed like a stoic greatness, quickly turned into a boredom. Les Claypool was constantly looking off stage and sighing. As if some puppeteer was forcing him to be there against his will. The music was exactly as it was on the album, but that in itself is a problem. There were no live changes, no more energy, no more trying. Although this group is still relevant, their display lacked any enthusiasm or passion.
Even though they seemed not to try they still projected a great sound and had the floor beating with them. Crowd surfers and moshers moved vigorously together like reved up particles bouncing off one another. Despite the lackluster effort, the sound was crisp and seemed to be note for note a replication of their recordings. This meant that the casual fan could really identify with everything.
Overall the night was owned by Portugal the Man, they decimated their opposition. Their intensity and new sound was a game changer and really had the audience drooling with excitement. Primus is dated, and old and had no more tricks in their bag. Although they projected near album reproductions, they didn’t add anything to the live aspect. No more energy, no passion, no desire to perform. When a band gives up, so do their fans. Maybe not last night, but over the next while, many of the swarm from this past evening will put their Primus albums away. It was really like seeing the ugly side of someone, it turns you off in an instant.