Music

The Claypool Lennon Delirium Defies Time and Space to Ring in 2019 at the Fillmore

Photo courtesy of ATO Records

Psych-rock dream team, the Claypool Lennon Delirium, takes one of rock's most sacred venues by storm on New Year's Eve as they prepare to launch a nationwide tour supporting their ambitious second album South of Reality.


It's New Year's Eve in San Francisco, and there's some compelling entertainment options around the Bay Area. But the most intriguing show has to be the Claypool Lennon Delirium at the Fillmore, with Les Claypool and Sean Lennon teaming up again to bring their psychedelic space rock project to rock's most sacred sonic temple for this auspicious occasion.

The tradition of the rock 'n' roll New Year's Eve show largely began right here in this room in the 1960s, with bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane doing the honors. Playing the Fillmore to ring in a new year is, therefore, a sacred counterculture honor, and this band seems well suited to the task. As the son of Beatles legend John Lennon, Sean inherently entered the music business with great expectations that would be near impossible to live up to. His band the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger rocks in an appealingly fuzzy psychedelic manner though, so it seems only natural that a tour opening for Primus led him and Claypool to connect.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium seems like it's crafted to meet high hopes, blending Lennon's distinctive voice and impressive guitar skills with Claypool's virtuoso low-end while mixing in a mutual bag of classic rock influences to create a supergroup of sorts that can both get weird and write catchy hooks. Monolith of Phobos, the band's 2016 debut, established a winning formula with a sound that blends freaky Primus style prog-rock with more accessible classic rock influences like Pink Floyd and the Who. The 2016 tour brought the Delirium to San Francisco for a vibrant set in Golden Gate Park at the Outside Lands Festival, another historic location for psychedelic music. Returning for a New Year's Eve blowout at the Fillmore with their second album South of Reality pending for release on February 22 feels like a natural progression as the Delirium aims for the next level.

Special decorations include giant balloon spiders in the room's four corners, perhaps fashioned after the Who's "Boris the Spider" which the band covered on their 2017 EP Lime and Limpid Green. An opening set by the obscure Claypool side project Beanpole is competent but largely forgettable and mercifully lasts only 30 minutes. When the Delirium hits the stage around 10:30 pm, the vibe immediately surges to a higher level as the band rocks out on "Cricket and the Genie" from the debut album. Colonel Claypool's supreme bass tone has become one of the most instantly recognizable sounds in rock and it lights a fuse here.

An inherently spacey rendition of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" seems tailor made for the Fillmore and serves as a perfect set-up for the new "Blood and Rockets - Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons - Movement II Too the Moon". Lennon takes the lead vocal here and there's quite a psychedelic effect upon hearing this space captain's Beatle-esque delivery on a song about the mystical adventures of the legendary yet largely unknown rocket scientist.

Parsons was a man who helped found the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, while also becoming fast friends with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard before perishing in a mysterious explosion in 1952 at age 37. Legend further has it that Parsons and Hubbard engaged in a mystical ritual circa 1946 known as the "Babylon Working" that attempted to create a "moonchild" through some ritual sex magic. Sources such as The Big Book of Conspiracies from Paradox Press even suggest that the ritual accidentally ripped a hole in the space time continuum that ushered in the modern age of UFOs.

"I hate to make John comparisons, but this sounds like Jack Parsons ripped a hole in the Space-Time continuum and opened a gate into an alternate universe in which John Lennon left the Beatles and joined Pink Floyd, and somehow a recording from the alternate universe came here," YouTube user Bango McCrash wrote in praise of the sonic mashup on "Blood and Rockets". The formula of blending Beatle-esque melody with Pink Floydian psychedelia is a compelling one for many classic rock aficionados, and so it seems that the Claypool Lennon Delirium is on to something special.

"Mr. Wright" boosts the vibe further as Claypool's bassline artfully nicks the Beatles' "Taxman" groove. This generates an electrifying effect to kick the party into high gear, with Lennon's psychedelic guitar work enhancing the sound further. "Sean is a musical mutant after my own heart," Claypool said in a 2016 statement. "He definitely reflects his genetics – not just the sensibilities of his dad but also the abstract perspective and unique approach of his mother. It makes for a glorious freak stew." A glorious sonic freak stew is just what fans are expecting here at the Fillmore and the Delirium delivers throughout the two-hour set. The new "Easily Charmed by Fools" seems to bite that "Taxman" groove again, but it's quite crafty how the Delirium is able to get another song out of it.

The Delirium's cover of King Crimson's "The Court of the Crimson King" conjures a trippy vibe that fits right in with tonight's freak show, leading into the midnight festivities as the clock counts down and balloons drop from the ceiling. The band launches into a raucous "Boris the Spider", clearly foreshadowed by those spider balloons in the Fillmore's four corners. The big groove gets the dance floor rocking, with the Fillmore's timeless circuit into classic rock history activated again.

More psychedelic mayhem from the new album follows with an Alice in Wonderland vibe on the title track "South of Reality" and "Cricket Chronicles Revisited", a psych-rock tour de force with some Eastern tonal flavor that feels like its infusing 2019 with a mystical energy ripe for invoking a sense of personal transformation.

The Delirium then delivers the masterstroke of the evening with their stunning take on the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows". Arguably the song that launched the psychedelic rock revolution when it closed out the pivotal Revolver album in 1966, the song truly highlights the magical musical synergy between this dynamic duo. Claypool leads the infectiously mesmerizing groove while Lennon delivers the mystical vocal and some smoldering guitar work that ranges from deliciously melty to downright scintillating. It's the perfect song for an occasion such as this, enabling everyone present to dream of manifesting bigger and better things in 2019.

The reality bending jam ends the set in most climactic fashion, leaving fans dazzled and indeed delirious as they wonder what could possibly provide a worthy encore after a trip through an existential cosmic wormhole like that. Colonel Claypool is known for being a showman though, so of course, he has one more trick up his sleeve as the Delirium welcomes a special guest who looks like none other than Jerry Garcia in a time traveling visit from beyond. "Larry Garcia" as he's introduced turns out to be Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde, but he sure looks like Jerry here and delightful sonic fireworks ensue. Claypool comes across the stage to engage "Garcia" in a dueling jam on Primus song "Southbound Pachyderm", before stepping back to watch the two guitarists go at it.

"Jerry, I'm such a big fan of yours man. It's awesome that you came out for this show for New Year's Eve, for the people, man. It's fucking amazing," Lennon says with tongue in cheek praise of the momentous team up here that still truly defies time and space. The guitarists proceed to shred hot licks on a smoking jam that melts faces across the Fillmore for one of the hottest jams in recent memory at the historic venue.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium has risen to the occasion here, delivering a memorable show filled with the type of top tier psychedelic jams that honor the Fillmore's sacred place in rock history. The rest of America will soon have their own chance to see what this heady music is all about, with a nationwide tour in April to follow the new album's release. South of Reality is a bold and ambitious sophomore effort, the type of album that oozes with mystical psychedelia from start to finish and therefore calls for dimming the lights and listening to the nine-song collection in its entirety for a genuine sonic journey. This type of album seems like an increasingly lost art here two decades into the 21st century, where the rise of the digital music format has made old school albums like this something of an endangered species.

The music world is therefore most fortunate to have sonic shamans like these continuing to uphold the traditions of old, conjuring higher consciousness within the rock genre while mixing in satirical social commentary that lets fans know these guys don't take themselves as seriously as they do their music. The sky would seem to be the limit with the talent and chemistry that's readily apparent, with the only question being how far Claypool and Lennon want to push it because this band has the potential to become the primary musical outlet for both of them.

Limited Edition 3D poster handed out free after the show

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