EXISTENTIAL RECKONING TOUR: PART 2
NOVEMBER 10, 2022
For decades vocalist Maynard James Keenan has maintained a mysterious live performance persona through his attire and in-the-shadows placement—lurking toward the back of the stage or even facing sideways during sets with TOOL and A Perfect Circle. When you thought things couldn’t get more obscure, Keenan’s creative subconscious project Puscifer emerged with music around 2007.
Puscifer is serious, but relaxed. It’s comedic, theatrical, electronic/industrial/rock/acoustic and Keenan is actually up front, albeit still in costume with a disguised visage.
This tour, the singer is dressed as character Agent Dick Merkin—wearing an outfit like The Matrix agents or Agents K and J—along with co-vocalist special agent Carina Round; for the purpose of this tour, a duo like Mulder and Scully. The band is also dressed in matching agent suits and everyone wears Ray-Bans and designation pins.
On stage two large screens were situated on each side of a dual riser with platforms, under which was a drum set along with large factory-like fans. If the screens didn’t have hilarious choppy videos by Merkin (one video examining celebrity clones), they were often filled with atmospheric interstellar images. The backlit stage also had fluorescent vertical tube lights and upper lighting that stretched out from the stage.
From the start, Agent Merkin appeared on the screens—similar to past appearances by character Major Douche—to emphasize the significance of attendees not using cell phones at all during the performance, if caught there were unbecoming consequences as was soon exhibited.
Toward the close of “Postulous,” a staged fan wearing a Billy D. Berger costume was in the pit in front of the stage jumping and singing along… and using their cell phone to record. The activity caught Agent Merkin’s attention and the fan was ultimately escorted out of the building by an agent wearing Judge Doom rubber gloves with a triangular Puscifer logo… we can assume, as presented in the video presentation, the fan was then disposed of in a meat grinder, used to spicen up some SPAM.
Although the theatrics seemed intentionally campy like a Tim and Eric sketch or Benny Hill production (with moments where I expected to hear David Lynch-like laugh tracks) the performance was enjoyable and everyone on stage was having a blast.
If Round and Keenan weren’t swaying in sync together, they were eerily squatting or running past each other from stage left to stage right crossing at the center, but still maintaining enough breath to execute a two-hour set—performing songs from Puscifer’s most recent release Existential Reckoning, including “The Underwhelming” with a stand-out harmoniously soothing high toned chorus. The band also performed favorites from previous albums, including: “The Humbling River,” “Horizons,” “Conditions Of My Parole,” "Momma Sed," “The Remedy.” Some of the performed songs were well-received alternative versions of the original.
After intermission, Keenan returned dressed as the antagonizing, drunken Billy D. along with the presence of aliens looking to abduct (as the tour poster notes: "Let the probing continue")—which continued to make the remainder of the show entertaining. Keenan permitted fans to use their cell phones during the final song, "Bedlamite."
Puscifer just released two live digital companion albums to the band’s recently limited streamed live concert films. V Is For Versatile featuring song re-interpretations from early albums including V Is For Vagina, and Parole Violator, a re-imagination of Conditions Of My Parole. Hard copies of the albums will be made available Dec. 9 exclusively at puscifer.com.
Los Angeles' duo Night Club opened the show with anomalous, danceable electronic goth music (Mark Brooks) with vocals (Emily Kavanaugh) like Peaches, but more subdued.