Puscifer with Carina Round @ The Orpheum Theatre 11.22.11

by Christopher Stoppiello (English), published December 7th 2011

Few artists can actually control their craft so fully. Maynard James Keenan is the writer, producer, director and star actor of the multimedia production known as “Puscifer.” As Keenan stated before the band closed out the show, Puscifer is truly an independent production. “It’s just us and you,” he said. With absolutely no middlemen (i.e., labels and show promoters) Puscifer is able to command every aspect of your concert experience.

The curtain opened to a clear stage as Keenan himself wheeled out a little air streamer trailer. A somewhat jovial din filled the auditorium as we watched Keenan spend a few minutes positioning the trailer, listening to nothing but the sound of his breathing. Backup singer and opening act Carina Round stepped out of the trailer and began assisting Keenan in setting up the rest of the redneck scene with picnic tables, chairs and a barbecue. Keenan gave a somewhat odd lecture on fire, the desert and human invention followed by Keenan and Round humming a song as they went.

The band formed slowly as the drums and keyboard were rolled out on what looked like farm wagon platforms. This act was very reminiscent of Talking Head’s film, Stop Making Sense, and perhaps David Byrne is a good comparison for Keenan’s controlling aspect.

Never before had I seen the staff at the Orpheum so aggressively enforce the no-camera rule. Concertgoers were being told “no photography” left and right. Keenan himself, or Keenan as a General Patton type character, even came on the screen before the opening act to warn us once more against taking photos.

The man seemed so against capturing the performance, that even with an approved photo pass I could barely get a decent photo. Later in the night, I was texting on my phone and a security guard warned me to put it away because of the photo policy. “If he [Keenan] sees it, he’ll walk off stage,” claimed the guard.  That baffled me. Whether this is the truth or just a scare tactic, I do have to say the show felt a little totalitarian for my tastes.

State control aside, it was a great show. Between acts the crowd was shown short films about Billy D and Hildy, a dysfunctional, performing couple from the world of Puscifer. Keenan is one of the most powerful and beautiful singers out there and it was a pleasure hearing him playing his own material live. The band played through all of the new album, Conditions of My Parole, as well a healthy dose of “V” is for Vagina and the track “Polar Bear” off of the C is for… EP. I know those last two album names seem out of left field, but Puscifer is proof that a band can have a sense of humor while still taking itself seriously and making real music. Conditions of My Parole is out now through AmazonMP3, iTunes, and Puscifer.com.

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