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24 November 2009

On Tour With Puscifer
Dallas, Paramount Theatre

Photo by Daniel Temmesfeld

Review by Teresa Gubbins at Pegasus News

When Maynard James Keenan isn't being lead singer for Tool, or lead singer for A Perfect Circle, or helping to make wine at Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, he's been fronting yet another band called Puscifer. That's the guise under which he appeared on Tuesday at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, where he and a collection of musicians performed a slow-simmer jazzy-ish rock set for a crowd of about 1,000.

Maynard James Keenan, as seen on video screen through fish-eye lens

Dallas can pat itself on the back, as it was one of only a dozen or so cities on this limited-run fall tour. As was the case with nearly every stop, Puscifer played Dallas two nights in a row, with a second show at the Palladium scheduled for Wednesday. The band was originally booked at McFarlin Auditorium, which holds 2300+ people. Tool has played there and had no trouble selling it out; possibly Puscifer is not as big a draw.

But the Puscifer show was as intriguing as anything Tool has done, with high production values, interesting visuals, and gorgeous sounds. Perhaps the fact that Puscifer's music, as heard on the 2007 release V Is For Vagina, is less head-banging than Tool diminishes its mass appeal.

The staging was distinctive: Maynard and backup singer Carina Round stood behind two video screens on which their faces were projected, distorted by a fish-eye lens. One percussion stand included a large gong, which tells you something about the night's arty aspirations. Guitars were treated with special effects that made them sound atmospheric or completely synthesized, with especially beautiful results on "Vagine Mine" and "Potion."

Maynard has called this an improvisational performance troupe, and changes the set and his own persona nearly every night. On Tuesday, he wore a sharp suit and tie. But one key component that doesn't change is the presence of couch and coffee table, where members of the band sit and help themselves to glasses of wine from his vineyard. It felt endearing but also a little hokey, almost like an elaborate, well-soundtracked ad to buy the wine.

The real oddity of the night had nothing to do with the band and everything to do with the bush-league behavior of the Palladium staff. As I stood on one side of the hall, jotting notes on a pad, a security guard approached and told me "come with me." When I asked why, he repeated his order, then said to walk to the entrance of the venue. I could hear him talking into his walkie-talkie, saying "Yeah, she was writing notes." It took forever to walk to the entrance because I'd been on the far side of the hall, so I turned around again and asked what was going on. "Just go to the front entrance," he said, trailing me ominously.

When we got there, two more security guards convened, and I asked what the problem was. They asked what I was doing, and then a supervisor emerged. By now I was pretty rattled. They all seemed confused by the idea that someone might be writing notes. I told them I was writing a review. Then the supervisor lectured me on the fact that if I were doing a review, I needed to take the proper steps, get a media pass, and so on. That's true if you're taking photos, but all I was doing was taking notes. Is it now forbidden to write words on a pad at the Palladium?