If this weekend in Montreal didn’t bring the heat, well we certainly got it on Monday. The Olympia Theatre was packed on Garfield’s least favourite day. There were predictably a tonne of Tool t-shirts in the crowd to witness frontman Maynard James Keenan’s third band in action.
We kicked off the festivities with Night Club, brainchild of Metalocalypse writer/director Mark Brooks. This electro-goth act would’ve been huge in the late 90s, but is still thoroughly entertaining in the current age. Opener, Die in the Disco, perfectly encapsulates what they’re about. Vocalist Emily Kavanaugh brought tonnes of goth schoolgirl energy like Gerard Way’s little sister. Overall, a great way to set the tone.
Before Puscifer hit the stage, the crowd was treated to a video of Keenan’s alter ego, Special Agent. Dick Merkin, leader of Pusciforce, explaining how the band makes its special SPAM from the flesh of violators of the no-camera policy, which actually drew a huge cheer.
The band all hit the stage dressed as MIB special agents, with Merkin wearing a wig and exaggerated red lipstick. They all moved like aliens trying to act human and the crowd ate it up. 3 completely hairless agents did their best to act human while scanning the crowd with what looked like Ghostbuster EKG meters.
The highly choreographed performance moved the pieces around the stage for every song, even using a balcony located above the drumset. Merkin was very entertaining addressing the crowd, constantly cracking jokes with awkward charm. They ran through all of 2020,s Existential Reckoning, occasionally pausing for videos of Merkin explaining conspiracy theories about Hollywood being infiltrated by alien clones that don’t age. Honestly, I could exhaust the English language trying to properly explain the insanity of it all to you, or you could check out the tour announcement done in the same style.
The theatre of it all was just insane. The hairless agents gave way to dancing grey aliens. They covered the stage from top to bottom and left to right, dancing like people doing their best to acclimate to earth.
After the album was complete, Agent Merkin exited the stage and a few minutes later, Billy D appeared, Keenan’s drunk southern uncle in a Jane Fonda wig character. He came in to berate the band asking for booze and asking if you can get pregnant from swallowing alien semen. With the new frontman, they ran through some older songs, including remixed versions of “The Humbling River” and “Momma Sed”, while the aliens brought glowing probes on stage and kept trying to do what probes do to Billy D’s backside.
The job of describing all of this is pretty much impossible. It was nothing short of a circus on stage and a fantastic show. If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of a lot of old classics. If you go to Spotify, only 3 of their top 10 made the set, 2 of which were heavily remixed. It seems like Keenan has dropped a lot of the material from the early days when he was the only official member of the band and used the Puscifer name to explore whatever musical style he wanted to experiment with. Since Carina Round and Matt Mitchell joined the band, they do now have a style they stick to.
Nevertheless, the crowd approved and cheered it all. By the numbers, Puscifer may be third on the Maynard power rankings, but this live show gives a different dimension that matches up to Tool or A Perfect Circle. The live show adds a lot to the music and gave me a higher appreciation of the new album, which I guess is what live shows are supposed to do but usually don’t deliver on this level.
Review – Richard Brunette
Photos – Kieron Yates