There was absolutely nothing ordinary about the two shows The Residents put on at the Kessler this past Friday and Saturday night. Out of all the rock and roll weirdoes that have come and gone, The Residents may indeed be the oddest ducks of them all. Celebrating 40 years together, the band put on a creepy and demented performance that thrilled the nearly sold out crowd.
The stage was outfitted like a bad Christmas display at Home Depot. Two of the three Residents were dressed like Navy Seals from Jamaica. Sporting ratty dreads and World War Two surplus night vision goggles, the keyboardist and guitarist looked insane and quite susceptible to heat stroke.
And then came frontman Randy Rhodes. Decked out in evil Santa garb, complete with the scummiest, scariest bald wig imaginable, Rhodes was equal parts singer and band historian. The between song banter consisted of (sometimes) minute details of the band's lengthy tenure. Sometimes, it was a rather touching tribute to a deceased collaborator (Phil "Snakefinger" Lithman) while other times, it was rather mundane lists of releases and release dates. Throughout it all, Rhodes was animated to the point of lunacy.
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Indeed, if anything detracted from the show, it was the prevalence of this unshakable sinister feeling the band itself gave off. It was like sitting next to your perverted uncle watching the Miss America pageant. And even though the music was top-notch and perfectly played, the set (which started an hour late) began to irritate about halfway through.
Perhaps that's the way it supposed to be for a band like The Residents. It's a love it or hate it proposition. It's a thrill to see these guys and they have had a remarkable career, but the music is simply too grating to take in large doses. Songs like "Picnic in the Jungle," "Baby Sister" and "Give it to Someone Else" are remarkable examples of experimental music, but taken together, they were more disturbing than powerful.
In the end, I found myself bored by the incessant depravity. But I would go again. I would have to. After all, it was The Residents.
Side note: A few weeks back, I interviewed Homer Flynn, the supposed manager of The Residents. In that interview, he stated that he was proud of the sales figures of the band's recordings in the '70s. Early in the evening, singer Randy Rhodes also spoke of these figures. I was amazed at how closely the words from both instances matched. Hmmmmm.