Puscifer (Maynard James Keenan solo project)(Boston Herald, 3.17.10)

Posted on April 6, 2010

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Fake TV news reports about religious cults flashing on TVs. Band members taking wine-and-cheese breaks. A wayward Christian-radio host popping up on a movie screen between shots of animated mouths grafted onto animal orifices.

Just part of a night with Puscifer, the multimedia hodgepodge from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan that rolled into the Berklee Performance Center Monday for a two-night stand.

Keenan cherry-picked moments from performance art history for the show, which also delved into his obsession with organized religion and late-night paranormal call-in radio. There were grotesque visuals that recalled the Residents, the satirical technophobia perfected by Devo and whoopie cushion sketches right out of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show.” Keenan and duet partner Carina Round – dressed in a “Cleavage Nun from Outer Space” get-up – stood behind TV monitors broadcasting fisheye lens views of their faces.

Whether the whole thing was a joke or a surreal screed against religion was hard to tell. At times the extraneous elements made way for Kennan’s sometimes incredible, sometimes bland music. The songs came from the modern rock mold Tool helped create – dark, angst-ridden, heavy – though they rarely veered into stadium prog-rock territory. The vocal grandeur was still there and Keenan just can’t resist a spooky ballad or funk-metal groove. With Tim Alexander from Primus on drums, why not?
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If you closed your eyes (and avoided Google searches), you’d swear it was all done in earnest. But everything happening onstage seemed to fudge it. The most amusing bit involved couches, coffee tables and band members lounging around and sipping wine (no doubt from Keenan’s own Merkin Vineyards). What was probably designed as a goof on backstage detachment ended up as a running joke on the audience, which sat calmly until Keenan reminded them that it wasn’t against the rules to stand up.

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Posted in: Boston Herald