Live Review - The Residents
This Wednesday, the hopes and dreams of many weirdo music fans in the area (including mine) came true as we had the privilege to see the legendary Residents live at The Granada. So how did this dream turn out? Like a nightmare, of course. And oh, what a nightmare it was! If you don't know about the Residents you should go download the "greatest hits" compilation they have put up on their site and hear the music that has delighted and confused open-minded music fans since 1972.
The show was more of a theatrical performance than a rock concert, which is to be expected. The set was comprised of entirely new material, and the group was not supporting any new album despite the fact that they have released a couple in the past year or so. The Residents approached this as a concept tour in which they tell a story through staging and improvised music as opposed to stringing together songs from through out their career. Along with the signature eyeball headpieces, the band also shed one of its members, as lead resident explained that "Carlos" had decided he had had enough with show business. This left keyboards, guitars and vocals for the night.
The stage was set up like a comfortable old man's den. Huge baggy chair adorned with doilies, luggage strewn about and a fireplace complete with a Yule log DVD running on a TV. The only thing that seemed out of place was a common looking LCD scrolling sign on which random messages scrolled across. Before the band took the stage "I'd Like to buy The World a Coke" began to blare across the system, reminding us that we were in the presence of some of the finest social and popular satirists America has sever seen. As I mentioned, the eyeball heads were nowhere to be found, and instead the guitarist and keyboardist, stationed permanently to the left and right of the stage, were dressed all in black and wearing some kind of odd helmet with what looked like dreadlocks attached. The lead singer and storyteller for the night resembled a freakish old man, what I envision the CEOs of most OIL companies to resemble. His vertically striped bathrobe and comically over sized neck tie made him look more like a child playing dress up, albeit a child with fantastic make-up skills.
Over the course of the performance, the demonically old man alternated between rapping his skull methodically while positioned in his chair, telling jokes, singing songs, dancing an impish jig and setting up some extremely bizarre video clips. The clips, which resembled Youtube confessionals done by David Lynch, were projected via a handheld projector across three floating white orbs. As to be expected, these stories were bizarre as can be. The First was about a man searching for the corpse of a dead child who happens to be holding a cryptic wedding ring. In the second, a teenage girls recounts her first lesbian relationship which begins by recounting early sexual exploration and ends with the narrator overfeeding her lover with cakes and watching Dr. Phil. The said lover consumes until she reaches several thousands pounds and has to be hacked up in order to transport the body out of the room. As for the third, my mind was so fucked by this point I can't really tell you what it was about other than it was a creepy old lady saying horrific things.
The two musicians may have been overshadowed by the narrator, but of course the show would have been nothing if it wasn't for their accompaniment. The music seemed to mostly improvised but recalling the styles they have explored before, although a bit more polished than I expected. I say polished, but trust me, it was still just as menacing as you would expect.
There was some semblance of a through line connecting these stories together, something about getting old and mirror people. Of course, continuity was not something that matters with artist such as The Residents. This show was an exciting and abrasive exploration into the mind of creative artists and their thoughts on getting old. I read a little bit about the show going into it, so I knew not to expect to hear a bunch of classic Residents songs-- I'll admit I was a little disappointed to know this, but by the end of the night it didn't matter because the show delivered on everything I would expect from a Residents performance. An experience I will never forget and I know will never see duplicated. If you want to hear the show for yourself, the band is making sound board recordings of all the dates on this tour available for $7.99 on their site. For all the skewing they do of the commercial aspects of rock n' roll, they sure know how to utilize them.