ROYAL OAK -- Maynard James Keenan has become something of a brand name that insures different and interesting ways to present rock music. It's been that way in his bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer not only falls in line but takes things out even further.
Making their inaugural Detroit area appearance Tuesday (March 23) with the first of two shows at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, Keenan and company brought tot own an 85-minute spectacle he likes to say "has more in common with 'The Sonny & Cher Show' than with Metallica." Rather than a variety show, however, Puscifer's performance was a conceptual clever take on rock 'n' roll theatricality, conceptually tight and engaging without eclipsing the textured ambience of the group's music.
Following an opening set by the satiristic Cleveland gospel duo Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival, Puscifer took to the skies for its set, coming on stage to a video commercial for Vagina Air (its 2007 album is titled " 'V' is For Vagina") with all seven members -- including lead guitarist Jonny Polonsky and the rhythm section from the band Ashes Divide -- decked out in flight crew uniforms. Three airline seats were positioned in the center of the stage, while Keenan and backing vocalist Carina Round sang behind a pair of video monitors that broadcast their live images into the theater. The Uncle Scratch members came "on board" to sit through a couple of songs on stage, while Tim Alexander served as the "flight's" steward, switching between serving drinks, handling luggage and playing percussion.
The set also included a series of sophomorically crude (but still funny) videos poking fun at airline security and emergency measures, but Puscifer's strength was in the music. Playing 14 songs drawn mostly from the "V..." album and the new " 'C' is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE)" EP, Keenan led his crew through the moody sonic gauze of "Rev 22:30," "Drunk With Power," "Momma Sed," "Potions" and "Polar Bare," as well as heavier fare such as "Trekka" (which he sang through a bullhorn), "DoZo" and "The Undertaker." "Sour Grapes" found Keenan and Round name-checking religious dieties, while "The Mission" and "The Humbling River" were among the most straightforwardly melodic tunes Keenan has ever recorded.
Before the night ended Keenan reminded the Royal Oak crowd Puscifer would be back again Wednesday (March 25) with an entirely different show. What they saw, and heard, Tuesday was certainly an experience worth repeating.
Tickets for Wednesday's concert are $39.50. Doors open at 7 p.m. The Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth St. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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