Saturday evening couldn’t come fast enough for this band’s loyal followers. The quartet walked on after a pre-recorded, mind-expanding melody drifted across the stage and established an ethereal mood. The Claypool-Lennon Delirium is all about sharp contrasts, deliciously, disturbing bass lines and rampant experimentation. Listening to them is a cerebral experience, a trip backwards to psychedelia and forward to a time when the bass has rightfully come into its own; as not just an adjunct, but a dignified prima dona.
“I’ve seen him twelve times, and Les Claypool always steals the show,” said one enthusiastic man. A female fan screamed, “Les is God” after the third song. And although this was the first time both parties had seen him perform with Sean Lennon, they agreed (after about ten minutes) that the two were a unique fit.
Lennon used metal slide to make his electric guitar wail, while Claypool vibrated and whacked his thumb belligerently against the bass strings. Lennon seemed content to remain stationary for most of the one-hour set, while Claypool worked the room. Later in the set, though, they faced off and front row fans got to really experience their personal and professional contrasts.
The set list shifted constantly from reflective to suspenseful to psychedelic and purely melodic, drawing inspiration from their recent collaboration, “Monolith of Phobos,” but their closer, “Within You, Without You,” a Beatles cover, was also compelling, There the sticks reigned supreme. The mood borrowed heavily from the original version, but also brought out the most salient characteristics. Most penetrating was the repentant percussion—on the Sgt. Pepper recording, the rhythmic portion is implemented by a group of accomplished experts from India, yet this small rhythm section created an equally outstanding version.
Claypool not only showed off his technique on bass, he brought out a small, stringed instrument over which he violently bowed. The uniqueness of the instrument stirred up lots of curiosity in the first rows. Unfortunately, without the benefit of a large screen, these sight lines might have been obscured, leaving many fans without the opportunity to witness Claypool’s entertaining antics.
And as Lennon used his slide to create ethereal sounds, Claypool, instrumentally, tended towards the sinister. Vocally, too, the contrasts were off the charts. Claypool growled defiantly into the mic, whereas Lennon displayed a natural bent towards melodic phrasing and precision harmonies, but those divergent shades are what makes this band a thrilling masterstroke.