For the second time in a week, I got to attend a show for free thanks to Chugg Entertainment. January has kicked off 2017 well for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I got to experience more live shows this month than I did all of last year.
Tonight, I witnessed the fantastic and completely absurd Puscifer perform the first ever gig at the newly erected Darling Harbour Theatre. For two-and-a-half hours (including ‘support’ act Luchafer, who were part of the main act), Puscifer drew us into their world, and left me feeling completely satisfied.
As a side note – what an absolutely amazing venue this is. It is such a perfect place for a live music show, and if you ever get the chance to see an artist perform there do not hesitate. The staff were all extremely courteous and friendly, and genuinely seemed like they wanted to help. Always a plus in my book.
Luchafer begin the show and whilst unique, it is strange. What happens when 5 Mexican luchadores wrestle for half an hour with overdubs of Puscifer’s ‘Queen B’ is this – laughter, absurdity, confusion and bemusement. I honestly didn’t know what the correlation between the Mexican wrestlers and the live show had, but the crowd seemed to get into it and have a bit of a laugh.
Without any more than a 5 minute interval, we see the familiar face (albeit in costume) of lead singer Maynard James Keenan on small screens either side of the stage. He’s in a military uniform and proceeds to ramble on in a way only Maynard can. The show is starting and the anticipation is high, as small white lights now shine down upon drummer Jeff Friedl as he begins the opening knocks and bumps of ‘Simultaneous’ from 2015’s brilliant ‘Money Shot’ album. Slowly the lights and noise begin to swell and crescendo until we hear the absolutely perfect unison of voices between Maynard and vocalist Carina Round bellowing out ‘Should the oceans rise/Should the sky come falling down’. It is the perfect introduction, but isn’t until guitarist Mat Mitchell bursts out of darkness with the opening riff that the theatre erupts into chaos. ‘Simultaneous’ is one of their strongest tracks and it was made to sound even better live, if that were even possible.
Continuing through fellow ‘Money Shot’ tracks in ‘Galileo’ and ‘Agostina’, the band is completely on song tonight. Friedl is as tight as ever, Mitchell is very impressive while Ministry’s Paul Barker thumps out his parts on bass with pure precision. Whilst the musicianship was solid all night, tonight to me was about one thing – vocals. Maynard writes some fantastic vocal melodies (have a listen to ‘Grand Canyon’ or ‘The Humbling River’), but it’s how he and fellow Puscifer vocalists Round and Mahsa Zargaran (also on keyboard and guitar, amongst many other duties) create harmony that has me completely transfixed. It is the highlight of the show. While I tend to enjoy a little more improvisation and off-the-cuff type shows, tonight’s choreographed performance had me amazed at just how talented and entertaining a band can be when given free reign to do as they please. Very powerful stuff.
The majority of the setlist tonight revolves around ‘Money Shot’, however we do hear some of the better tracks from ‘Conditions of My Parole’ including the terrific ‘Horizons’ and the title track that sees Maynard don his Tool-esque megaphone. A few older choices (which I will refrain from naming due to inappropriate language) made an appearance too, but generally I found the newer tracks to be much more cohesive and focussed. Throughout the night we are re-introduced to the luchadores of Luchafer acting out various scenarios during and between songs, even bringing out a small cock fighting ring to watch two robotic roosters going head to head (did I mention this show was absurd). However crazy and strange it may have been, I actually didn’t mind the idea of a rock band putting on more than just a rock show, and whilst I didn’t really connect with the wrestling motif, it was entertaining.
Maynard is much more vocal than he is when he fronts either of his other bands, Tool and A Perfect Circle. He jokes with the crowd often, and even tries to get the crowd standing and singing louder – completely unlike the Maynard we know. We are even treated to a hilarious comparison between the Opera House and Monty Python. There is no doubt he has a very strange sense of humour, with his extremely dry sarcasm underlying every word he speaks.
Puscifer is not for every one. They can be a tough ask for a new listener (myself included), but after sifting through the weirder side of Maynard and his ‘side project’ (which, for the record, is a ridiculous way to pigeon-hole this magnificent band), there are some absolutely remarkable tracks that are just a joy to listen to. Maynard has always tackled heavy subject matter due to his well-documented history, which can be difficult for someone with a completely different upbringing to connect with. Tonight’s performance, however, was all about musicianship and Puscifer delivered on all fronts. An outstanding performance.
Puscifer @ Darling Harbour Theatre, Sydney. Wednesday 25th of January, 2017.
- V***** Mine
- The Arsonist
- The Remedy
- Life Of Brian (Apparently You Haven’t Seen This)
- Rev 22:20 (Carina Round on lead vocals)
- Grand Canyon
- Polar Bear
- Telling Ghosts
- Conditions Of My Parole
- Money Shot
- Man Overboard
- Smoke and Mirrors