The Residents Hit the Blender Theatre at the Gramercy
Nowadays, as your government knows where/when you poop, it's reassuring that 36-year-old conceptual-art collective the Residents remain anonymous. Another constant: Their ideas are always more fully realized in concert, as are, say, Gwar's.
Recently, the Residents unveiled a YouTube video series called "The Bunny Boy," about an unhinged old man's search for his lost brother Harvey; the mysterious foursome has now crafted a touring performance around this spooky tale. Onstage Friday night were a pair of tent/domes, flanking a door with a screen on top. Discarding their usual eyeball-head outfits, the band sported minstrel-like masks, bunny ears, pinpoint-light "eyes," and sequined tuxedos—like an alien Song of the South. Huddling in the left dome, they took up their instruments, but tonight, the guys were merely backing up the show's real star.
That honor went to the Bunny Boy himself, who cautiously appeared wrapped in a big blanket. "I've got a story to tell," he sang menacingly in a thick Southern accent familiar to longtime Residents fans. As he skulked along the stage, the group added Frippish sustained guitar, womping drums, gloomy synths, and occasional backing vocals. Occasionally, he'd scamper into the shadows cast by the right-side, closed-off tent. The songs/video/narrative revealed that before Harvey vanished in Greece, B-Boy himself had been following along, as he cathartically screams in confession. End Act 1.
After an intermission, he returned in hare gear: "I know what you're thinking: a grown man in a bunny suit!" the Bunny Boy roared, to the crowd's laughter. His "I'm not crazy" shtick got a little tired even for him, though, as he napped in his now-visible tent/dome, filled with toy bunnies and rabbit mobiles, while the videos projected above the door explained Harvey's descent into madness and apocalyptic conspiracy theories. Our hero took this to heart, proclaiming to applause that he was going to Greece to save the world, leading to a howling climax on "What If It's True?" Paranoia also gets the best of him as the band chants, "Fear, panic, terror, and doom," perhaps matching the crowd's own recent mindstate.
But in the end, B-Boy merely skulks away with some of his bunnies, leaving us to ponder his fate as well as ours. (He did briefly return, though, for a sweet lullaby of an encore, before exiting for good to a recording of Gene Autry's "Peter Cottontail.") Not as elaborate or ambitious as the Residents' prior Cube-E or Wormwood tours, this rabbit-centric excursion nonetheless proved once again that the band possesses a disarming knack for surreal, nightmarish multimedia narratives; Tricky, RZA, and Nine Inch Nails should take note.
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