Over the Weekend: Puscifer, Carina Round Majestic Theater Saturday, December 3rd, 2011
If you wondered what Puscifer is about, well, their 75-minute performance on Saturday night provided plenty of answers. Part concert, part multimedia experience, and part absurdist theater, Maynard James Keenan and company put on a show incomparable to anything else out there.
A couple minutes after nine o'clock, Keenan walked onto stage in front of a venue that was 98 percent full. Wearing a black cowboy hat, a black shirt, jeans, and boots, he pulled a small trailer onto the stage. Unloading chairs, tables, bottles of wine, and band member/opening act Carina Round, he explained his methods behind Puscifer like a philosophy professor.
Ten minutes later, "Green Valley" kicked in.
Right away, things were clear: Puscifer is a more involved live act than on record. On their albums, the electronic beats feel nimble, but live, those beats, played by drummer Jeff Friedl, rattled the audience's eardrums. The ambient material felt incredibly dream-like, especially given the dynamic visuals and light show. And Mat Mitchell's guitar had a great, lonesome desert sound that cut clear across the venue.
Credit the depth of the sound system or just having musicians fleshing out all the parts, but whatever, this greatly worked out in the band's favor.
Keenan stood towards the back of the stage, leaving most of his bandmates, chairs, tables, and a barbeque grill in the front of stage. Sans a direct spotlight, he still cut an intimidating presence with his look and slithery voice.
Without making a note of their song choices, they ended up playing all of the songs from their latest, Conditions of My Parole, but not in sequential order. Adding in songs from V is for Vagina, you often heard a large sector of the crowd singing along.
Sure, Keenan has the kind of distinct draw that can make fans drop money on his wine and see Tool and A Perfect Circle multiple times. But these audience members didn't seem like lemmings only hoping to get closer to the man.
After Keenan's lengthy introduction, he encouraged the seated audience to stand up after a couple of songs. But he would not banter with the audience until the band wrapped up their set. Introducing his bandmates, thanking the audience, and calling attention to how the band is independently run ("There's only us and you, so thank you"), he quipped how the band was moving into the encore section even though they never left the stage.
Prior to Puscifer's set, a 25-minute faux documentary played on a TV screen lifted high above the stage. Featuring Keenan as Billy D Berger, a country/western singer with a punk rock ethos, and Mr. Show alum Laura Milligan as his wife and singing partner, the laughs came quick and didn't stop until the end. Mocking the delusional, unfaithful couple interspersed with live performances, this was a perfect precursor.
Yet before this, Puscifer member Carina Round started the night off at 8 o'clock. Performing songs from her forthcoming album, she wowed the gathering audience. Receiving enthusiastic applause after every song, she completely deserved it. Joined by Puscifer's rhythm section, a female backing vocalist, and a lead guitarist, Round's voice traveled far. At times, the Brit's material showed shades of P.J Harvey and Nick Cave, all while maintaining an original and unique feel.
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Personal bias: Out of all the projects Keenan is associated with, A Perfect Circle's Mer De Noms remains my favorite. That said, this was a much more engaging show than when I saw A Perfect Circle devote an unhealthy majority to lukewarm covers back in July.
By the way: A guy sitting behind me talked about how he has seen Tool 13 times. Sounds like the kind of Tool fan that would be at a Puscifer show.
Puscifer's set list: "Green Valley" "Tiny Monsters" "Vagina Mine" "Dozo" "Toma" "The Rapture" "The Weaver" "Rev 22:20" "Polar Bear" "Indigo Children" "Oceans" "Monsoons" "Horizons" "Conditions of My Parole" "Man Overboard" "Telling Ghosts" "The Undertaker" "Tumbleweed"