The Residents at Cedar Cultural Center, 2/18/13
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Monday, February 18, 2013
The Residents rolled in Monday at the Cedar Cultural Center on their 40th anniversary World of Weird Tour and it lived up to its name in spades. Long gone are the iconic eyeball-with-a-top-hat masks they wore for so long, and with those, it seemed, went a lot of the magic.
The stage was decorated like a Christmas village, with an inflatable snowman and Santa Claus that had a Residents banner hanging between the two. Lead singer Randy Rose was dressed in a Santa costume and the top half of an old-man Halloween mask, and the two other members, identified only as "Chuck," who manned the electronics, and "Bob," who held fast on his axe. Both of them, from the neck up, looked like Predators with welding hoods on. They quickly got going with "Picnic In the Jungle" from their first release, 1972's Santa Dog. Rose later claimed to have sent copies to, the Beatles and Richard Nixon. "Give it to Someone Else" followed and that's just about when things started to get a little too obtuse.
Throughout the night, all of the songs they played were, at least to some degree, deconstructed or stripped down, giving the already exceptionally odd-sounding arrangements an even more clinical feel than they possessed prior and given the stage set it began to take on the aura of the most frightening Xmas pageant ever performed. "The Confused Transsexual" from 1995's Gingerbread Man was a rare burst of focused energy that hit the right spot, but overall this show simply could not find a way to mesh properly.
Rose's between-song (and mostly fictional) rants/ruminations about his eleven ex-wives, his attempted foray into porn -- both of which were continuing stories throughout the night, the latter of which culminated in Rose pulling a dildo from his pants -- his life-partner cat and a decidedly tongue-in-cheek retelling of the Residents' history, proved to be distracting at first, then completely overwhelming to the flow of the show. It was surely intentional, but it didn't make for an exciting night overall. "Touch Me" proved to be another glimpse of sanity in the ever-increasing storm of willful, annoying ridiculousness that was washing forth from the stage, like a John Waters film come to life with fewer laughs and in somehow even poorer taste.
The encore, however, was a slightly different story as they began with an unidentifiable song that quickly morphed into "O Christmas Tree" as a roughly 12-foot, white, polka-dotted Christmas tree was inflated stage right with a top-hatted eyeball as a tree-topper, naturally. It was quite the visual and since it's February and it was snowing on Monday night, it served as a disturbingly poignant moment. The three then stood in mock-reverence of the tree for a couple of minutes as "Auld Lang Syne" blared from the P.A. and then the band slowly walked off stage. It was somehow fairly exhilarating (if utterly confounding) watching the last few minutes of the show -- if only the prior 85 or so minutes could have been like that.
It was hard to tell exactly what they were trying to do in the overall scheme of things over the course of the set, but it never really took hold, it seemed. Even art for art's sake should make some sort of point when it's finished.
Critic's Bias: I didn't really know what to expect from this show other than I knew without a doubt it was going to be fairly strange. It exceeded that expectation in the first few minutes and then kept on going until it was tiresome and a little grating. Overall it was a letdown from a band that's revered by so many.
The Crowd: Older; many old enough that they likely bought the Residents' early releases when they were in high school and those albums were new.
Overheard In the Crowd: "What the hell is happening up there [the stage]?" was heard more than a few times.
Notebook Dump: There is a point where avant-garde can be pushed too far and we're definitely seeing it cross the line tonight.