One of Keenan’s affectations is to remain out of the spotlight, literally. He and Round spent most of the performance silhouetted against desert landscapes and animated psychedelic loops while the other players were more visible near the front of the stage. Occasionally, someone would drop into one of the camp chairs and play or sing from there.
Starting with “Green Valley” and “Tiny Monsters” (Tracks two and one, respectively, from the new album, Conditions of my Parole), the show leaned heavily toward new material. In fact, the band made a nod toward previous works, performing six older songs, including the beautifully atmospheric “Polar Bear” and a stunning and completely unrecognizable version of “Indigo Children,” but most of the 90-minute performance was dedicated to recent works, with the entire new album performed pitch-perfect and unerringly.
The performances of most songs were perhaps a little too faithful. The previous Puscifer show featured complete reinterpretations of the songs performed, and I hoped this show would be similar. But what it lacked in variation from the recorded versions, it made up for in sheer mastery and glorious sound! I believe Keenan chooses to perform in theaters rather than arenas because he knows that opera houses are designed for sound, and the soundboard artist was the unsung hero of Wednesday’s performance.
In 18 songs, the band flowed from strength to strength, working up to the ultimate climax of the evening, the layered and complicated “Man Overboard,” arrangement. The band took it all the way to eleven, with McJunkins and others stepping in to help create the echoing vocal effects of the song. Finally, with the lovely “Tumbleweed” echoing in our ears, Keenan flashed a peace sign at the audience and the band was gone from the stage. No encore, just a rush of fans flinging themselves to their feet in ovation, before rushing out for that much-needed post-coital cigarette in the frigid outside air.
Check out more photos from the show by Eric Scott Russell here.