20 March 2010
On Tour With Puscifer
Toronto, Queen Elizabeth Theater
World Up My Ass
Drunk With Power
The Humbling River
|Review by Robert Gherson at Mushy Pony
What is a Puscifer? That was the semi-rhetorical question that greeted us at Maynard James Keenan’s second sold out night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The answer to that question was really not much clearer after two nights of shows, but maybe that was the point. Puscifer (“Poo-See-Fur” obviously created by the same man who’d name his vineyard after a pubic wig) defies categorization. It is a band in that they play music, sure. But it is also a comedy troupe doing onstage satire and prerecorded comedic skits.
You know it’s going to be a good night when they’re selling targets to be both shot at and signed by Maynard. Knowing this going in and expecting some irreverence certainly helped make the show more enjoyable and entertaining.
The first night was fairly straightforward, they played their studio versions of each song to a “Vagina Airlines” theme. The band members dressed up like pilots and flight attendants and performed surrounding airplane-style seats where opening band, fake Christian rockers Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival sat and were served drinks via airplane cart throughout the show. The videos in between songs were according to theme as well, including essential safety instructions (“if you need instructions on how to do up your safety belt, kindly take your tie, wrap it around your neck and hang yourself quietly”) as well as assorted jokes about airport security.
Although not as serious or significant as the music he does with Tool and A Perfect Circle, Puscifer’s music was definitely not a total joke either. Sure, there are lyrics like “grab them saddle bags and throw them over me” in a song about having sex with a larger set woman, but onstage the songs were performed with the same intensity Maynard is best known for. His voice was note perfect as usual and female singer Carina Round complemented him and held her own especially during “The Mission” (originally sung in studio by Milla Jovovich). The night ended with Maynard introducing the band and promising a completely different show the next night. He did not disappoint.
The second night started off as a country show with the band dressed up like the cast of hee-haw, complete with Maynard in a hideous blond mullet wig. Drummer Jeff Friedl inexplicably wore a blue dress that didn’t really fit in with the country theme. As light as the mood was the first night, it was even less serious the second night. A documentary about Maynard’s character for the evening “Billy Dee Burger” and his wife/singing partner was shown in between songs with repeated references to “Tonto, Ontario”. The country set featured reworkings of Puscifer songs, the best of which was Trekka, which took on a slower, darker feel. Guitarist Johnny Polonsky was definitely the saving grace musically during the country section of the evening. His guitar lines provided some complexity to the intentionally cheesy country music.
After the country set, the band changed into their “normal” clothes. They ploughed through some more songs, with videos in between featuring members of the cast from Mr. Show with Bob and David. As a whole, we were left without any better understanding of what exactly Puscifer is supposed to be, but it didn’t matter. This band’s not out to bring as many new fans to the fold and conform to society, they’re just playing out their inside jokes to an audience only partly privy to. As Maynard says on Puscifer’s Facebook page “Check your overinflated expectations at the door” and it will be an enjoyable night.