with Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival
March 15, 2010
Berklee Performance Center
Before the doors opened, there was already a line waiting to get into The Berklee Performance Center. While walking past the eager crowd, I spotted a van from a local rock station parked near the front door. It made me chuckle a bit, because while that station often play(ed) Tool and A Perfect Circle, the music of tonight’s act, Puscifer, is seldom heard on their airwaves.
Satire was in full swing for tonight’s performance, and not so subtly with the opening act, Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival. With “preachy” evangelical songs about redemption, sex and their favorite topic, the Devil, Brother Ed and Brother Ant had the crowd cracking up as soon as they walked on stage. During their act they frequently spouting their favorite faux-pious slogans like “the Devil is a punk-ass bitch.” This novelty act also utilized various visual props as well, including a cardboard tube drum kit complete with a metal milk-crate hi-hat (which was tipped over repeatedly). The biggest laugh came when they unfolded a poster-sized picture of the the Devil himself, Tom Cruise. This duo is nothing but entertaining.
Puscifer took to the stage with each member dressed up in clergy garb. This is not a show for those who may be sensitive about their religious beliefs, especially if you are Christian, because Maynard James Keenan pulls no punches in his satirical attacks on organized religion.
Puscifer’s performance was nothing like I anticipated… it was so much better. The instruments were pushed to the side of the stage, with drums and bass on one side, guitars and percussion on the other side, with Keenan and vocalist Carina Round at center stage, and a giant video screen above it all. The Puscifer show is as much a visual arts experience as it is a musical performance. At the back of the stage, Keenan and Round stand behind monitors with mic and cameras rigged so that their faces are displayed only on the monitor. Two couches and tables used by the band at various points to relax with some wine (probably from Caduceus Cellars) and cheese were placed front and center.
During the fist song the band seamlessly played over a spoken word piece played on the video screen. Musically, based on how the records are done, I expected at least some of the music to be pre-recorded, but was surprised to find it was all performed live… flawlessly. That’s how the set progressed, a mixture of music and visuals… humor and biting satire.
The set wasn’t filled with ad lib moments or unscripted banter with that crowd, but about an hour into the set Keenan quietly said to the crowd, “You can stand-up if you want to,” and everyone did just that. The entire crowd rose up out of their seats and moved to the music. Highlights include the live renditions of “Indigo Children,” “Vagina Mine,” and “Momma Sed.”
As I left the venue, I couldn’t help thinking that I’ve never seen a performance like what Puscifer had just laid out. It was a unique experience both visually and musically. And I think everyone in the crowd would agree, we’d love to see it all over again.