The Capitol Theatre
with Neil Hamburger
Arriving at the Capitol Theatre, I knew that I was in for something other than a “typical Tool show.” The pat-down at the door was the same, and the other people waiting in line were the same, but the upscale sit-down venue caused an overall sense of mystery and curiosity among my fellow patrons. Puscifer is the newest project of Tool and A Perfect Circle front man Maynard James Keenan.
Neil Hamburger, a character played by musician and actor Gregg Turkington, opened with a rash of comedic stylings. Prone to heavy drinking and occasionally hacking into his glass, Hamburger as a character seems to be commenting on what has become socially acceptable as entertainment. His jokes are terrible, but he presents them earnestly and relies more on his character’s strange ticks and outbursts to make up for what his jokes lack in substance. You laugh at him instead of straining your brain to understand his jokes. He is more like that awkward guy you might sit next to at a wedding who forces you to choose uncomfortable laughter over repulsion. Hamburger focuses his onslaught on a random list of celebrities and random issues as he acts just as put off by his material as the audience. “What do you get when you put a Nickel in the ass of every member of Smash Mouth? Nickelback!”
Off-putting as Neil Hamburger was, he fit right into Maynard’s master plan for the show. Maynard has provided a social commentary through his music for some time now. Rather than anger and angst. he was using satire to get his message across this evening.
As the curtain rose Maynard was inside of a small tent in the middle of the stage tinkering with his computer. After taking a phone call and discussing how he was giving the band a break from the tour by camping in Colorado, he decided to join us after the person on the other end of the phone told him how much money he could be making. The tent was lifted and the band joined him on stage—a nice humor transition from Hamburger’s camp. A charcoal grill was pulled out as well as several bottles of wine and some camping chairs. As the band played each member took breaks throughout the set to sit and enjoy the warmth of the fire. A big screen modeled after a freeway billboard showed different billboard designs that poked fun at American Culture, advertising such businesses as the “He is Risen Bakery” and “Camp Crystal Meth.” There were also occasional interludes from the music in which we could see “What is a Puscifer.” This is when Maynard revealed his fine understanding of slapstick and humor through short skits where he was in meetings with different writers trying to brainstorm various reality TV show concepts involving whatever a Puscifer is. It was great seeing the lighter side of Maynard.
As the band performed Maynard and backup vocalist Milla Jovovich each sang from behind two flatscreen TVs while their bodies where obscured and we could see a fisheye view of their faces. The contrast between the outdoor-themed set and watching the two sing live, in person, on TV, was intriguing. These parallels were made throughout the show. Even as the band was “camping” Maynard was on his laptop and talking on a cell phone while wearing a snazzy suit. I couldn’t help but think that he is making some sort of statement about our crippling dependence on technology.
The live performances were significantly different than the tracks from Puscifer’s albums. As an experiment Maynard has done a lot on the album to tweak the mixes and add effects on the albums that he didn’t emphasize live, the music and the performance didn’t suffer a bit as a result.
The audience was challenged throughout the show by the creative choices that were made on stage from Neil Hamburger’s off-putting jokes to Maynard’s light and fuzzy side (even when he is throwing babies off of a cliff in one of the skits we saw) I left feeling fine sitting down and getting to take in the show in the comfort of the Capitol Theatre. No smoke, no sweat, and an uplifting show from a notoriously dark creative force.
Puscifer @ Capitol Theatre
By Ben Trentelman [email@example.com]