116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s common for recording artists, especially legacy acts, to deliver classic albums in their entirety. The Eagles are on tour performing “Hotel California” front to back.
Slayer played every second of “Reign in Blood.” Metallica did the same with “Master of Puppets” and Aerosmith rendered all of the hits and deep cuts from “Toys in the Attic” during pre-pandemic tours.
However, it’s uncommon for an established band to play an album’s worth of material from another artist.
But Primus is not your average band.
Primus is showcasing an album that’s nearly a half-century old, but it's not from the quirky band’s idiosyncratic canon.
The nearly unclassifiable avant-rock act is performing Rush’s “A Farewell to Kings“ in its entirety April 22, 2022, at the McGrath Amphitheatre in downtown Cedar Rapids.
But why select a Rush album, which is 45 years old and on the obscure side?
“We’ve joked about doing this kind of project for years,” vocalist-bassist Les Claypool said by phone from his San Francisco home. “We talked about doing (Rush’s) ‘Hemispheres’ a couple of years ago. We talked about doing the Rush album ”2112,“ but that was too obvious.
“I saw Rush when I was 14. It was the first concert I ever attended, and I’ll never forget it. It was at the Cow Palace (in Daly City, Calif.). It was the greatest moment of my life at that moment,” he said.
“ ‘A Farewell to Kings’ holds a special place in my heart. We were going to do this when (the late Rush drummer, Neil Peart) was still on the planet. But we went on tour with Slayer for their final tour (2018-2019). We were going to do it not that long ago, but COVID pushed it back further.”
It's not surprising that the Rush camp gave Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander the thumbs-up.
“They’ve been amazing,” Claypool said. “Larry has talked to Alex all the time about which guitars to use. I’ve been going back and forth with Geddy about how the hell he did that stuff on bass, sang and played keyboards.”
It's difficult to imagine Claypool, whose vocal range is best described as limited, tackling the notes Lee reaches, which are way off the chart.
“I’m singing in my range, which isn’t anywhere near what Geddy can pull off,” Claypool said. “I can’t go into Geddy’s stratosphere. The bass parts are challenging enough. The vocal parts are monster.”
Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 by Dave Grohl and the late Taylor Hawkins, and the group has finally received props across the board. However, Rush was the biggest cult band a generation ago and was dismissed by many music arbiters of taste.
“It's so true,” Claypool said. “History is extraordinarily kind to Rush. But you never saw Rush in music magazines, especially Rolling Stone, when they were in their prime. Rush wasn’t on MTV. It was all about Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads back then. They were who the cool people liked. Liking Rush was like being a Trekkie or being into ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’
“Rush got caught up in the rebellion against art rock or prog rock. During the ’90s, we were asked to tour with Rush. ... We got grief from the European press. We were asked how a young, alternative band could go on tour with this dinosaur prog-rock band. My response was, ‘It’s Rush!’ But Rush was my world as a kid,” Claypool said.
“But like you say, you were judged by the clothes you wore and the music you listened to when you and I were kids.”
The Primus show in Cedar Rapids also will include Primus material.
“(Primus drummer Tim ‘Herb’ Alexander) pointed out to me that ‘Kings’ is only 36 minutes, so there is plenty of time for Primus songs,” Claypool said.
Since working on “A Farewell to Kings,” there's been a change in the work habits of Primus.
“We’re rehearsing,” Claypool said. “It’s been invigorating for Larry and Tim and I, since we never rehearsed that much. We would often decide to get dinner or drink some wine. ‘Kings’ forced us to be in a room to play and play and play. It opened a door for us. We’re working on our craft, and that’s a wonderful thing. But you’re a writer. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it, but this forced us to focus.”
Don't expect new Primus material yet, even though an album is on the horizon.
“Some ideas are being thrown around, but we’re not there yet. We will have a new album at some point,” Claypool said. “We’re focusing on this tour and ‘A Farewell to Kings.’ That’s enough for us for now.“