Grins, goosebumps, sentimental appreciation, that purest state of musical bliss, that moment when you realize the past and present have collided and exploded to create the strangest sense of déjà vu and novelty – yeah, all that happened this past Sunday at The Ritz Ybor, where The Claypool Lennon Delirium swept us up into a maelstrom of star-faring space rock and heavy-fizzing and whirling psychedelia.
Bassist maestro Les Claypool and multi-instrumental singer, songwriter and producer Sean Lennon (son of John and Yoko) make a rather good team; both gifted with an abundance of sonic genius, creative prowess and complementary skills — Les slapping, bumping, plucking and bowing his array of unique lowend instruments and speak-singing in low nasal intones to Sean’s soloing, riffing and experimenting on his own arsenal of axes and delivery of clear, bright, high-soaring vocals that are so much like his dad’s, it squeezes your heart. Together, the dynamic duo crafted one of my favorite albums of 2016 so far, Monolith of Phobos, which was released a few days before they landed in Tampa Bay.
After filtering onto the stage a little after 9 p.m. with touring bandmates Mark “Money Mark” Ramos Nishita (keyboards) and Paul Baldi (drums), the pair proceeded to cycle through the majority of material off Monolith beginning “Cricket and the Genie,” an opus presented as two parts on the LP but mashed together for its single release and live performance, the first half chugging, writhing and grooving to the more deliberate, creeping-and-plodding second half, which comes to a climax of crunchy-sinister bass and guitar, pitch-shifted la-la-las, and a repeated harmonizing chorale of “You ought to try it, you really ought to try it” before it peters to a close.
Three panels of paintings that served as the backdrop brought a vaguely steampunk/vintage sci fi feel to the evening's festivities – a pale, eye-patched face (or was it the man in the moon?) giving a Mona Lisa smile to the left, a white bird (albatross?) winging towards Saturn, and between the two, a woman (chimp? alien?) in white go-go boots perched atop a giant speaker. Claypool and Lennon were correspondingly costumed, Les in trademark bowler hat and double-button dinner jacket, Sean in policeman’s cap, smoking jacket with red velvet lapels, snug-fitting slacks and leather calf boots, and something about his combination of unruly beard fuzz, the glint of lights on his spectacles and the way he tilted his head when he sang made my own hair stand on end, so much he reminded me of John.
The pair only had one album's worth of material to work with and were joined by bandmates that had probably learned the songs a few weeks before hitting the road, which means the setlist didn't vary much from night to night, if at all, and anyone who did a little research knew what to expect. No matter; the sound quality was great from the two different spots I occupied on the floor, everyone on stage seemed rather comfortable playing together even though it was only day the second day of tour (“I said last night was going to be the best night of the tour, but this night already feels better,” Claypool remarked early in the set), and amid Monolith fare —like swirling Beatles-appealing trippiness of “Ohmerica,” the stalker perversion of “Mr. Wright,” the ominous chimp in space-inspired “Bubbles Burst,” the trudge-and-bounce of the so blue “Oxycontin Girl,” and the Primus-style storytelling and jerky beat-hawking of “Captain Lariat” — they sprinkled in some choice covers.
The Delirium's definitive Pink Floyd influence is even more apparent in a live setting, and the band paid direct homage with a rather fine reading of “Astronomy Domine” — an early Syd Barrett-era Floyd jam that was received with much enthusiasm from the crowd, as was the Frog Brigade ode “Up on the Roof” (“Please don’t take my ladder away!”). But I have no doubt goosebumps spread from balcony to floor when they launched into “Tomorrow Never Knows” to close the set; Sean’s pipings sounded so desperately like his dad’s that I admit to getting a little teary-eyed and couldn’t help but feel like I was experiencing something special, the legacy of John made flesh, soaked in Yoko's quirk, and plying his own unique brand of psychedelic music. Yes, Sean, I will turn off my mind, relax and float down stream...
The band closed the night with an expansive, textured encore of Primus’ “Southbound Pachyderm,” the song that first brought Les and Sean together on stage so many months ago.
And that’s the beautiful thing; an impromptu "Southbound Pachyderm" jam spawned an entire album of inspired collaboration and a road show that spreads the sonic magic they've created to fans far and wide, and sometimes, allow for that rare instant when all the universal notes align to create a magical moment in the concert-going memory book.
Cricket And The Genie
Breath Of A Salesman
The Monolith Of Phobos
Up on the Roof (The Les Claypool Frog Brigade cover)
Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd cover)
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles cover)
Southbound Pachyderm (Primus Cover)