The Claypool/Lennon Delirium – The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC 6/10/16
Primus mastermind and bassist extraordinaire Les Claypool was looking for something to do after said band’s early 2016 tour wrapped up. He wanted to do another Oysterhead (Trey Anastasio, Claypool, and Stewart Copeland) album, but contractual obligations prevented it. So instead he turned to Sean Lennon (yes, THAT Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko) as a collaborator, and boy, is the world a better place for it. Lennon moved into Claypool’s house, drinking his wine and playing his drums, and over the course of six weeks they recorded “Monolith of Phobos”, a modern-day psychedelic rock masterpiece. The two had bonded in 2015, when Lennon’s band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger opened for Primus, and Lennon (on guitar) would join Primus on stage for the space jam masterpiece “Southbound Pachyderm”.
Your faithful scribe had the extreme good fortune to win tickets to “see” (Les apparently likes to play on a darkened stage, there was no front-lighting of the band members whatsoever, so more a case of hearing rather than seeing) these merry pranksters at the venerable Orange Peel in Asheville, NC, alternately known as Portland East for its beer culture, and San Francisco East for its counter-culture. In front of a nearly sold-out crowd of all ages, sporting Beatles, Primus, and obscure Les Claypool side project t-shirts, Claypool and Lennon, along with keyboardist Mark Ramos Nishita (of Beastie Boys fame) and drummer Paul Baldi (Fungi Band), put on a master class in psychedelic rock. In case you are not familiar with Claypool, in addition to his prodigious bass chops, he is the master of a thousand voices (a la Billy Corgan, must have been a Nineties thing), while Lennon sounds eerily like his father. But the surprise of the evening was Lennon’s guitar playing. I must have heard ten times during and after the concert “I didn’t know Sean Lennon could play guitar like that”. Swooping, diving, sliding, all the while awash in reverb and delay, he was brilliant. He WILL be featured in Guitar Player magazine soon, remember you heard it here first. As Les noted during a monologue early in the show, “this guy over here, Sean Lennon, can play the s**t out of that thing”.
Along with 9 of the 11 songs on their album, they treated the audience to a spot-on cover of Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine, as well as “Animals” from Ghost of a Saber Tooth. But the highlight of the evening, as it has been for most of their shows so far on this tour, was a brilliant rendition of the Beatles classic “Tomorrow Never Knows” with Sean channeling his father to the point of collective goosebumps spreading thru the crowd. An extended-jam encore of the aforementioned “Southbound Pachyderm” wrapped up the evening, sending the crowd into the evening feeling good, at least for one day until the news of the Orlando massacre broke.
The band is touring extensively all summer long, if you love space rock/prog rock/psychedelia/goofy intellectual lyrics/virtuoso playing, then I strongly encourage you to A) buy the album, and B) get out and see these guys.