It’s probably Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s own fault that the debut (and so far only scheduled) performances from his side project Puscifer were unable to live up to the hype. Starting months ago, Keenan gave cryptic interviews about the nature of the three performances at the Pearl at the Palms, hinting at a cabaret-style show that would mix music with skits, videos and even snacks, and feature guest appearances from a variety of musicians, actors and comedians. The first of the band’s three Pearl shows did open with a skit and boast a cameo from singer/actress Milla Jovovich, but by Sunday, what was on display resembled a traditional rock show with a handful of added elements.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing—Keenan and his team of backing musicians did a good job bringing Puscifer’s music to life, the live instrumentation offering a more immediate experience than the band’s somewhat tired, repetitive recordings. The album’s industrial-ish songs opened up thanks to the set-up that at times included dual drummers and singer/keyboardist Juliette Commagere augmenting Keenan’s vocals. Opener “Momma Sed,” with just Keenan singing over a heavily processed bass guitar, even sounded a bit like a Tool outtake.
But what about the whole Vegas-style cabaret act we were promised? Aside from Keenan performing a brief impromptu wedding ceremony for Commagere and a man who may or may not have been her fiancé, onstage performance art was in short supply. Primus drummer Tim Alexander, dressed as a naughty nurse, hung out in an Airstream trailer at the back of the stage for most of the show, and members of faux-religious opening band Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival sat at the foot of the stage roasting marshmallows over a fake fire. The result was a mildly amusing enhancement to the music rather than a whole other dimension of the show.
There were also a number of absurdist videos theoretically introducing the Puscifer concept (complete with knowing Vegas references to Lance Burton and Elton John’s The Red Piano), but experiencing them live wasn’t substantially more entertaining than watching them on YouTube. As a rock show, Puscifer’s performance was mostly enjoyable; as a promised multimedia, multigenre experience, it was pretty much a bust.