Over the weekend: Puscifer at the Paramount Theatre

Over the weekend: Puscifer at the Paramount Theatre
Puscifer (Aaron Thackeray)

Puscifer, Uncle Scratch's Gospel's Revival
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Paramount Theatre
Better than:
Watching old reruns of Hee Haw.

It would have been hard to predict the format and content of Saturday night's Puscifer show based solely on the outfit's studio recordings. A side project of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, the band has offered albums marked largely by dark and brooding vocals and the industrial, driving rhythms. It's a sound that's been easy to connect to Keenan's work with Tool, as well as his other side project, A Perfect Circle. But the band left such cues behind on Saturday night in favor of an elaborate, coordinated stage show, one rooted deeply in the musical textures and cultural cues of vintage country music.

Over the weekend: Puscifer at the Paramount Theatre
Neil Hamburger (Thackeray)

Where Uncle Scratch was raw and unrefined in their tributes to country and western models, Puscifer was sleek and well-honed. Even as a screen behind the set beamed clips of Billy Dee and Hildy giving interviews and getting into trouble in front of the trailer, the comedy of the night found a balance in quality of the band's performance. Keenan's voice was sterling on songs like "Sour Grapes," and Polanskit's soaring, piercing steel guitar runs on "Drunk With Power" made it sound like a completely new song.

Even though the group re-emerged minus its country trappings for the final five songs of the set, the strong impressions from their careful stage show weren't easy to shuck off. The band drew on theatrics for the final segment -- stripped of their country and western outfits, Keenan and Round stood behind screens during the performance of songs like "Momma Sed," "Potions" and "The Humbling River."The band, which had seemed specialized in one genre during the first part of the performance, quickly shifted to new musical contours without a pause. Steel pedal and acoustic guitars were replaced with thundering lines and dramatic drum rolls.

But the accomplishment of the "Burger Barns" segment of the concert didn't evaporate. Even though Puscifer showed its chops in its more predictable renditions, it felt as if their more impressive achievement was in their successful and utter transition to another genre.

Personal Bias:
I enjoyed the countrified version of "Drunk With Power" much more than the version found on "V" is for Vagina.
Random Detail: One of the clips the band played featured cast members from "Mr. Show," the comedy program that lent the band its name.
By the Way: At the end of the show, Keene advised the crowd, "Next time we come back, expect something completely different."

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