Let Me Entertain You: The Residents @ World Cafe Live 2.8.10

There is nothing ‘easy’ about The Residents.  From their extremely experimental and challenging music to their confrontational visual projects, the legendary group has always been one of the most creative American bands.  For a band whose most notable characteristic is the undisclosed identities of its members, The Residents tour rather frequently, always presenting a new set of costumes and stories to tell.  On their current tour, the “Talking Light,” The Residents decked the stage at World Cafe with a quaint, homey living room set that included a small couch and electric fireplace.  Part of The Residents’ charm is not only creating their own unsettling weirdness, but twisting themes and objects that are otherwise comforting and familiar into their own nightmarish versions.  This was going to be an interesting performance, to say the very least.

The first figures to step out to the stage were a pair of black-clad giants, with bug-eyed goggles and spindly dreadlocks.  One crept over to a seat with a guitar leaning against it while the other switched on a few electrified tchotchkes perched atop the artificial mantle.  As he retreated to a keyboard and laptop rig, another figure emerged, this one hunched over with a wrinkled, rubbery mask, dragging his clown-sized spectator shoes as he wobbled.  After a song or two, the singing character introduced himself very matter-of-factly as “Randy, singer from The Residents.”  He introduced his silent bandmates as “Chuck” on keys and “Bob” on guitar.  “Randy” went on to explain that, while there were always four members, drummer “Carlos” has retired to Mexico to take care of his mom.  This sort of conversational absurdity would carry over into the various stories that would be told throughout the night.

First was “Talking Light,” the story which gives the performance its name.  Using a hand-held projector, “Randy” beamed an image of a grotesque face onto the three round screens that flanked the back of the stage.  This was repeated twice more during the show, with two more stories being interspersed with “Randy’s” reprise of a certain musical theme.  For example, the second story, “Pudding In Disguise,” included a boa constrictor named ‘Leonard,’ so naturally “Randy” moaned a few bars of “Dress Rehearsal Rag.”  The band’s love of deconstructive covers continued with “Six More Miles (To The Graveyard),” which they interpreted for their Stars & Hank Forever salute to Hank Williams and John Philip Sousa.  Another older song, “Bury Me Not,” from the Cube E project, made its way into the encore, ostensibly for the casual fans who just wanted to hear some hits.

Through jagged guitars, programmed rhythms and squeaking, distorted vocals, The Residents presented all the homespun American-ness of a country bumpkin recalling his alien abduction.  It was without a doubt one of the most captivating performances I’ve ever seen.  From the warning tale of (and eventual encounter with) the “mirror people” to the use of “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” as musical bookends, The Residents offer everything you could possibly want out of an artistic performance.  While they may never do this particular show again once the tour is complete, I would, without hesitation, see The Residents again, just to see what mania they’ve cooked up.

Click the picture above to see more pictures of The Residents in concert!!

~ by E. on February 10, 2010.

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