by John Heyer.
Modjeska Theater, Milwaukee WI, USA. November 6, 1997.
While driving into Milwaukee, I noticed the night sky illuminated with two giant skylights criss-crossing through the night air. "Wow! Skylights for the Primus show? Weird." The skylights weren't for Primus, however, but for Sara McLaughlin. Yes, while the singing diva was playing a sold-out show at the Lakefront, Primus had crept into town, drawing Milwuakee's more alternative crowd to the decaying Modjeska theater, a 1500 seat building located in the meanest area of town. Despite the circumstances, I was extremely happy. Primus is one of the best live bands in the country, and all I could think about was how lucky I was to see them in a small theater.
Setlist: John the Fisherman In the Flesh (Pink Floyd) GroundHog's Day Dutchess and the Proverbial Mindspread Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers / Highball with the Devil Golden Boy My Name is Mud Kalamazoo Jerry was a Racecar Driver Bob's Pary Time Lounge Sailing the Seas of Cheese Over the Falls Eleven Sgt. Baker / Tommy the Cat / the Awakening / Brain Solo Encore: Southbound Pacyderm / Arnie Too Many Puppies / Hello Skinny (Residents)
Brain was amazing. After hearing him groove on the Awakening and Eleven, I'm starting to think he may be better than Herb. Brain was really pounding hard the whole night, and injured his hand during "The Awakening", but seemed OK for his solo. Les was in good spirits. He revealed that Captain Peirce was in fact his grandfather, and many of the gadgets for the "Over the Falls" video came from his garage. After bringing out the upright, Les explained that Primus was the second band to sign on Interscope, Gerardo ("Rico Sauve") was the first. As Les explained, "He sold a shitload of records, which is good because a band like Primus could come in and make...", then grinded the bow against his Arco bass. He further went on the explain the meaning behind Seas of Cheese, how Primus was thrust from the College Radio world to one dominated by "Winger, Warrant, and Vanilla Ice." Ler was Ler as usually -lots of freaky stuff. I was surprised to see he was doing the backing vocals on John. As the band left for the stage after the encore, he yelled somethingin the Mic.
The show was about 85 minutes with encore. I'm a little let down they didn't play Puddin' Taine and Fisticuffs (my two favorite Brown Song), but was glad to see that Dutchess and Falls are becoming regular songs. Although they lack the mosh power of other regulars Mud, Jerry, and Tweekers, they are every bit as enjoyable when played live and break up the show nicely. Kalamazoo and Eleven were present surprises. Les was really in full stride for "Tommy the Cat". He put his hat backwards and immidated the jerky motion of the barkeep from the video. The audience did throw lots of stuff, but it was mostly clothes and cups. Barely any made it to the stage, but some article of clothing (I think it was a bra) landed right next to Les during the start of "The Awakening", which seemed to throw him off a bit. Needless to say, the Pink Floyd and Residents cover were neat, and "Sgt. Baker" was added to the now 12 minute "Tommy the Cat" medley.
I left the theater certain that Primus is possibly one of the greatest live bands of this time. Since I had lived in Pittsburgh for the last ten years, my only exposure to Primus at small shows had come through the Netcast in May 96, and it seemed as if Les was missing a lot of notes and wasn't being very spontaneous. Although their performance at the HORDE tour last summer was excellent, it was rushed and didn't sound well outdoors. But they were really on tonight. Les was hitting everything perfectly and looked like a kid on stage: strutting and spinning, definately enjoying the crowd's response!
The opening bands weren't much to talk about. They were the two heaviest bands I've heard in my life, but were boring because all their songs sounded exactly the same. Powerman 5000 had 2 drummers which was pretty cool, Limp Bizkit had a guy on turntables. Both bands remined me of a Ministry/Rage mix. They were nothing like Primus, but seemed to keep the Milwaukee metal underground crowd happy. The Bizkit singer felt the need to insult the audience far beyond any comical value, but redeemed himself by performing a stage dive during "Jerry".