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The Residents don’t do “concerts.” I recently compared their live show to “avant-garde cabaret.” Last night’s, however, was closer to a one-man musical—-well, with a video monitor over the stage. The Bunny Boy webisodes can be seen at home on YouTube, but here they were fused with the music and new revelations to the story, making them infinitely more compelling.
The Singing Resident played the Bunny Boy, explaining the mysterious circumstances behind his brother Harvey’s disappearance on the Greek island of Patmos. He’s a terrible actor, particularly in the YouTube videos, but better onstage because of his commanding presence. In the first act he skulked around under a scraggly beard and a cape, raving like King Lear. After intermission, he popped out wearing a head-to-toe bunny costume (he “hoped it would be more entertaining”). It’s hard to take your eyes from a middle-aged man with untamed beard, horn-rimmed glasses, and a bunny suit.
The show’s lighting designer deserves an award. The stage was a mosaic of colored light and shadows, executed so that even when the Singer showed his whole face, he wasn’t entirely visible. (We got some tantalizing views in the second act, though by then the bunny suit disguised him.) A photographer friend pointed out how it used a red-and-blue color scheme that distorted perspective like 3-D glasses.
The music itself was full of weird, often ugly tunes and electronic voicings. But just as the onstage drama was better than its YouTube version, the onstage music was better than the CD. The band (at stage left) inserted fresh layers of sound into songs like “The Secret Room” and “My Nigerian Friend,” and a new clarity to “Secret Messages” (the best track of both album and concert). There were even new songs: the show opened with a tune probably titled “I Have a Story to Tell,” and ended with at least two others that aren’t on the album. The music functioned in the service of the story, but it may have been even more successful on its own terms.
See Brandon Wu’s post to see photos from the show.