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The Claypool Lennon Delirium @ The Fillmore.

September 6, 2016

Claypool Lennon Delirium-30

Text and images by Ed Schick.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium rode their “Southbound Pachyderm” from New York to Philly last Wednesday night stopping at the Fillmore with their unique brand of rock. The tour is in support of their first collaborative album Monolith of Phobos.

Les Claypool and Sean Lennon came together in 2015 while Lennon’s band, Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger, were opening for Claypool’s main band, Primus. They hit it off on and off stage and decided to get together after the tour to see what would transpire. The end result is the album full of catchy, funky, psychedelic, pop-infused, prog-ish art rock tunes that brought them here.

The Delirium set kicked-off with an empty stage and the prerecorded sounds of “There’s No Underwear in Space,” the last song on Monolith. Claypool and Lennon seamlessly transitioned from tape to live as they headed into a cover of prog giants King Crimson’s “Thela Hun Ginjeet” with Claypool singing lead. It was immediately obvious you were hearing a Les Claypool project as soon as his distinctive bass playing and tone kicked in along with his trademark bounce. At one point, he even threw in a little tease of “Dueling Banjos” which really got the crowd going even more than they already were. I would be hard pressed to find a better song from the set to give an introduction to Sean Lennon’s perhaps surprising guitar prowess. He showed many hallmarks of many a great guitarist: fast and accurate picking, expert use of his tremolo, and deft use of effects. Drummer Paulo Baldi also had a shining moment to open the show with this song and proved to be quite good all night.

Lennon took the mic for the next song, “Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium).” Keyboardist Money Mark started it off with an eerie haunted house intro which gave way to a heavy, psychedelic, and bouncy shuffle. The eeriness of the intro was a perfect setup for your first taste of Lennon singing. The moment he started, there was no denying you were listening to John’s son which itself was eerie if not prepared. This was not a bad thing, however. His voice works perfectly for the music being played.

After a few minutes of this tale of child prescription drug dependency, the transition to “Cricket and the Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket)” began with Claypool taking over the lead vocals and Lennon singing haunting harmonies. This finished with the first real break for the crowd to show their enthusiastic appreciation. After some brief banter between Claypool and Lennon, of which Claypool was clearly more comfortable doing, it was on with the show.


It was back to Claypool with lead vocal duties on “Breath of a Salesman,” which was a very Primus-sounding song with Beatle-esque choruses. This combination may seem a bit strange but it works incredibly well. Lennon shows off again here to the crowds delight with a soaring guitar solo and a section using the talk box that would make Peter Frampton proud. This was followed by the title track of the album. “The Monolith of Phobos” is where they really started to bring out the psychedelia, and the joints. Lennon’s work on the guitar was pretty impressive as he channeled his inner David Gilmour with perfect use of effects and slide I have not seen since Gilmour himself. Claypool was Claypool on this one from his distinctive leading vocals to his ever unmistakable sound and playing.

Then, it was back to the prog portion of the program, with an abbreviated and instrumental version of Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise.” This was one of the fan favorites of the night and the subject of much chatter in the hours after the show. This was where the whole band, not just Lennon and Claypool, seemed to shine brightest as a group.

It was a relatively new song to their set but you would never know it by listening to how tightly and precise the song was executed. All parts, from Bruford’s drums to Wakeman’s keyboards to Squire’s bass and Howe’s fretwork, were performed flawlessly. As close to a perfect cover as I have ever seen. “Heart” was the perfect intro to the next number, “Cosmic Highway” which is from another of Claypool’s projects, The Les Claypool Frog Brigade. They stretched this one out to about eleven minutes. There were heavy Yes and Pink Floyd influences on this one. Yet it is undeniably a Les Claypool original at the same time. This was the crowd’s chance to kick back, smoke another joint and sway away to the groove that just about everything Claypool does seems to have. And that’s a good thing. A really good thing.

“Boomerang Baby” was up next which seemed to obviously be a largely Lennon composition. In just about every way imaginable, it sounded like a modern version of a song that could have been on about any album from The Beatles’ Revolver to Abbey Road period. Claypool used an upright bass using both a bow and his fingers to play for an even more vintage sound.

This was followed by the low point of the show. I know most in attendance will disagree, but this is my review. Dean Ween joined them bathed in red lights to perform the Ween classic “The Mollusk.” This is in no way a slight on the song or Dean Ween. It just didn’t seem to fit the whole vibe of the show. Nor did it fit musically. This is one man’s opinion but it was the only point in the show I was bored and uninterested.

Once that was over, the journey continued with fan favorite, “Mr. Wright,” from Monolith. There were classic Les Claypool bass lines as only he can play them. This may have been the best example of the night of his funk bass prowess with lyrical content that harkens back to Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne.” This began what was the best stretch of the show.

From there it was a trip “In the Court of the Crimson King,” by King Crimson, of course. Once again, the band shone on this one, especially keyboardist Money Mark. With no break, the band went right into the Syd Barrett led Pink Floyd classic “Astronomy Domine.” Lennon and Claypool on vocals sounded less like themselves and somehow summoned the voices of Floyd’s Barrett and Wright. Another combination of the genius of the mixture of the Lennon Beatle influence and the incredible quirkiness of Claypool followed in “Captain Lariat”. The Beatles’ psychedelic classic “Tomorrow Never Knows” was the next and last song of the set. This was as much of a mini jam session as it was a classic cover song. Once again, Lennon’s guitar skills were on much deserved showcase here. It was, not surprisingly, the crowd’s favorite among many spectacular performances.

The band left the stage to cheers continuing for a couple of minutes before Les Claypool appeared on stage alone to do a fantastic solo rendition of the Primus song “Too Many Puppies” to a very energetic crowd. The rest of the band returned upon completion to perform the Primus song “Southbound Pachyderm.” A great choice as it highlights their versatility by combining elements of funk, psychedelic, prog, pop, blues, and just about everything else they mix into their stew.

Finally, they did a nice tribute to the late great Gene Wilder by playing a version of “Just Imagination” as only they could before returning to “Southbound Pachyderm” and closing the show.

The bottom line is that this was one of the finest musical performances by a band I have ever seen. If you enjoy watching and listening to real musicians performing music, this was a great show. On the other hand, if you need pyro and inflatables and giant light and video shows, you may want to stay home. Eight of the 11 tracks on the album were performed and performed to perfection. The cover songs were just as expertly chosen as you never felt like they were just grasping for songs to round out a two hour set list.

It is not uncommon for bands with only one album to fill out the set list with covers to put together a full show. It is, however, rare for a band to pick songs that so perfectly match their style, sound, attitude and overall vibe. The Claypool Lennon Delirium did this flawlessly and put together one of the best sets I’ve ever heard. I will definitely be returning to see them should they return whether or not they have a new album to promote.



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