Live Reviews : Puscifer @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 28/02/2013
Puscifer, for the uninitiated, is the side project of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. When he’s not busy with his other side project A Perfect Circle. Or making wine in Arizona.
If you haven’t heard any of their releases, there really is no way to describe the music of Puscifer. Keenan is the only permanent member of the band, and the band’s back catalogue contains more remix albums (3) than it does Studio Albums (2), meaning that to the casual observer it can be hard to know what the original version of the song actually is.
Which is maybe why they choose to perform live the way they do.
Puscifer’s set was meant to begin at 8:30pm, but ticketholders had been advised to turn up at 8. When the traffic finally allowed me to arrive at 8.20 I found out why. The start of the set was an in flight video.
The theme of the show was that the crowd were aboard a ‘Vagina airways’ flight. Maynard hit the stage in full pilot uniform, including fake moustache, while the rest of the band were either flight attendants or co-pilots. There was a drinks trolley, and between songs in-flight safety videos.
The entire set up, along with the fact the venue was seated, meant that the show felt like more of a cabaret performance than a band’s concert.
Two of the band members – apparently two producers – spent the entire concert sitting in airplane seats at the front of the stage. They literally just sat there reading newspapers, and occasionally ate or drank what they were served from the drinks trolley.
Which brings us to the peanuts. Never has a concert been so based around peanuts. A few songs into the set, Maynard and front-woman Carina Round started throwing little packets of peanuts into the crowd. We were on a flight, so fair enough, but this continued for the rest of the gig, with the crowd more focused on catching packets of peanuts than seeing a gig.
Despite the distractions, they did actually perform music throughout the night. Maynard’s voice is an absolute pleasure to listen to no matter what band he’s in, and Carina Round also sounded great throughout the set. They performed most of the set behind digital picture frames, which projected their faces to look like olde photos (no photos or photographers allowed – sorry), and allowed Maynard to keep out of the spotlight, as is his want.
Some of their songs, such as Momma Sed, Vagina Mine, and Potions were emotional and beautifully executed, with Keenan and Round’s voices mixing together sweetly. Others sounded wrong, like a band covering their own songs.
Ending with The Humbling River, Maynard asked the audience why they were still sitting down, prompting some of the crowd to stand up, before awkwardly sitting down again with the rest of the crowd, which pretty much summed up the crowd’s reaction to the entire set: entertained, but never involved.
About two thirds of the way into the set, two people walked onto the stage and sat in airplane seats and joined the two producers out there already reading magazines and drinking. It was James Iha and Billy Howerdel, Maynard’s bandmates from A Perfect Circle. Again, they just sat there, and after a few songs, and Maynard announcing who they were, they left again. Which left the crowd with two questions: why were they there and not actually participating? And why couldn’t we be at an A Perfect Circle gig?
Review by Matthew Dworak