The Gig: Puscifer with Carina Round opening
Where: Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, ON, Canada
When: 18 November 2011
In One Word: Transitional
Having only briefly heard the talents of opening act Carina Round during Puscifer’s show last year, Friday night’s proper introduction was a long-overdue one. Her set was brief – she is still performing as a member of the main act, after all – and she’d had to borrow Matt McJunkins (on bass) and Jeff Freidl (drums) after Canada’s ever-vigilant border guards prevented a few of her bandmates from laying waste our fair land, what with all their music playin’ and bus tourin’… a whole mess of trouble no doubt avoided, thanks guys! Good work. I’ll remember this next time war criminals cross the border unmolested.
No, I jest – it was really nothing more nefarious than merely falling afoul of our infamous CanCon laws, which not only dictate the American-to-Canadian content ratio on TV and radio, but also how many American performers are allowed into the country at once – much like how you and your friends might have to wait outside a packed club until enough people leave. Unfortunately for her band, Nickelback were out of the country, thus lowering our ratios, so they had to pull straws. True Fact™.
But I digress. Carina Round has a powerful full-throated singing voice that’s a welcome change to the talentless auto-tuned divas currently dominating the airwaves – so please, someone give this girl more attention than whatever media she’s gotten so far. Dynamic rock arrangements complementing her vocal range’s tumultuous switching between twangy warble to emotive holler, there’s little held back in her performance. The slow oceanic buildup of “The Last Time” crashes into a tempest for the chorus, contrasted with when Round later takes over the vocals on “Rev 22:20” halfway through Puscifer’s set, adding another layer of seduction to the sultry number. Here’s hoping for a tour back this way in the future.
Meanwhile, eagerly anticipating the sequel to last year’s show, I was stuck outside with the other photogs so I missed Maynard James Keenan’s opening monologue – and stepping into the theatre I hope I never have to shoot another show here. Wallflowering photographers behind the stage corner in a pitch black auditorium and at an angle where half the band is blocking any clear shots of the other half is no way to get any kind of decent pictures, but thankfully “Green Valley” and “Tiny Monsters,” off their sophomore album Conditions of My Parole, are sufficiently soothing that I can refrain from too much self-righteous entitled bitching.
While last year’s Vaudevillian show followed a set theme – or rather, a rotation of six different ones – this year they produced a toned-down affair, with a campfire setup complete with folding seats, a fake fire in a Hibachi, a mini Airstream trailer, and a video screen playing random clips featuring a backwoods man-child as well as Hildy and Billy Dee Berger (who were both otherwise noticeably absent, with Keenan dressed in villain-black from hat to boot.) Some of the video animations I could have done without, like the noodley woven background during “The Weaver” which was cringingly overly literal – unless there was some Magic Eye hidden image I was too sober to notice…?
The song list reflected a more somber mood, with the absence of lighthearted slapstick
making room for emotive bloodletting and the occasional political commentary. “The Rapture” voiced an exhausted patience with the self-appointed cultural saviours over sluggish, chest-thudding bass lines accompanied by images of politicos and televangelists being tossed down a fiery hole. With the trio of “Oceans,” “Monsoons” and “Horizons,” the set slowed to a near crawl in the middle, only to jar the audience out of their torpor with “Conditions of my Parole” and “The Undertaker,” with Round wailing about delightfully/drunkenly.
Round and Keenan prove to be a stunning duet, both crooning soulfully at the show closer, the banjo-tinged “Tumbleweed.” On the whole it was a more conventional performance than last year, a bit underwhelming considering the expectations laid – riffing off last year’s gags without fully incorporating or building on them felt at times like there was one foot on last year’s stage and another on this one, and would leave someone who had missed them last year in the dark as to the references being made; better to either evolve something completely different or carry on where you left off. But if it’s an awkward transitional stage, their fervently devoted fan base are more than likely to see them through it.
© Liz Keith, Music Vice
Pictures of Puscifer at Sony Centre: (Photography access was restricted, which is fair enough: the band is the most important thing, and generally speaking concert photographers should work within the guidelines set by the band and promoter. We also agree with Puscifer 100% on the ‘no flash photography’ rule.):