Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade’s Summer Of Green Tour Invades Buffalo
Keyboardist Neal Francis played an electrifying opening set at the Town Ballroom.
Tuesday night in Buffalo, Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade brought their Summer Of Green Tour to the Town Ballroom along with special guest Neal Francis. Both sets of the night featured inspired playing from the two bands … and each had its own incredible Pink Floyd covers.
Francis and his band, powered up by some pre-show Rick Astley listening, opened up their 45-minute set with “This Time.” Slick breakdowns ensued ahead of a powerful whammy clavinet from the long-haired keyboardist. Guitarist Kellen Boersma took the lead on the jam out of “Say Your Prayers,” unleashing fretboard fireworks on the packed venue.
The twin sections of “Changes” led smoothly into “She’s A Winner,” where drummer Collin O’Brien put on his finest performance of the night. Locking in with bassist Mike Starr on the hard-charging groove of the song, smiles stretched across all four band members’ faces as they raged through the catchy melodies into a short extended jam.
A fantastic cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23” smoothly segued into “Very Fine” and then a surprise pairing of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” closed the set – Francis’ ’70s-style sound fitting the covers perfectly while also foreshadowing the full Floyd album that would be performed later in the night.
One interesting thing to note for keyboard nerds such as myself may have noticed, is that Francis used a pared-down version of his normal touring rig. When playing headlining shows, he has a Yamaha CP70, Korg synthesizer, Hammond organ, and Hohner clavinet (see more about the rig in Francis’ rig tour video). In Buffalo, he only had the organ and clavinet – forcing different sonic textures on songs when the piano is normally used, a very cool thing to hear!
The Frog Brigade took the stage to military-like music around 9:15 p.m. and bassist Les Claypool himself ripped into the bouncy opening of “Highball With the Devil” from the 1996 album of the same name by Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel. Keyboardist Harry Waters took a scorching solo on his Moog synthesizer before handing it off to a brutally good bass/drums deconstruction.
The slanted nursery-rhyme vibe of “David Makalaster” was tapped next as Waters continued to shine on Moog. Percussionist Mike Dillon displayed his impressive vibraphone chops as he traded rapid-fire licks with Claypool on bass. This tune also included the distinctive bass intro to “Southbound Pachyderm.”
Frog Brigade original “Buzzards of Green Hill” saw screaming slide playing from guitarist Sean Ono Lennon ahead of the more proggy “Cricket and the Genie” from the Claypool/Lennon Delirium. The final tune before the band’s foray into Floyd-land was drenched in psychedelia and ended with a spaced-out deconstruction by Waters on clavinet.
As they have done every night of the Summer Of Green Tour, the Frog Brigade launched into a full cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals, Lennon picking up an acoustic guitar to begin “Pigs On The Wing.” The meat of the album “Dogs” showed off the amazing harmonies between Lennon’s leads and Waters’ Kurzweil synthesizer. Claypool dropped bombs and textures in the spacey interludes as vocal duties were shared around – Waters especially sounding eerily similar to his father’s original sound on the album.
Lennon forcefully took the lead on “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and lit up the venue with a skronky and amazing talkbox solo. As the album closed with “Sheep” and “Pigs on the Wing Part 2,” not much more can be said than Claypool and his band delivered a beautiful re-creation of the legendary album.
Taking a moment to breathe before launching back into original material, Claypool introduced “Phantom Patriot” with a story about a vigilante-like figure of the same name who attempted to kill a group of political figures at a retreat decades ago. The song itself was highlighted by Dillon’s almost-too-fast-to-follow vibraphone work, his shredding on such an unlikely instrument being crazy awesome. Waters took an organ solo highly reminiscent of Ray Manzarek’s electric piano work on “Riders on the Storm” ahead of a Claypool/Lennon duel to close it out.
“D’s Diner” immediately slapped stank faces onto all those in attendance when the beat dropped after Claypool’s reverse-delay bass intro. A brief jazzy section within the song and more awesome slide guitar led into the set-closing “Whamola.” Claypool donned a shiny metallic helmet and picked up his wild synth-upright bass for some truly insane playing as drummer Paolo Baldi slammed everything in sight.
An encore of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” that saw each band member leaving the stage one by one as the many textures and loops faded out.
Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade put on an unbelievable show – faithfully covering Animals and metaphorically punching the crowd in the face with the many heavy original songs. The tour continues across the country throughout the summer – definitely catch a date near you … especially if Neal Francis is opening!
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