The Residents present Shadowland – Part III of the Randy, Chuck, and Bob Trilogy

Anonymous art collective and sonic provocateurs, The Residents, brought their brand of social critique in the form of freak show/rock opera to New Haven’s College Street Music Hall on April 23rd. They also brought with them the “Theory of Obscurity: a film about The Residents”. The documentary, which recently debuted at SXSW, traces the mysterious origins and history of the group featuring members of The Cryptic Corporation along with snippets from many of their short films and pioneering music videos, interviews with past collaborators and performers, artists represented by their label Ralph Records, as well as the occasional celebrity including Penn Jillette and Les Claypool. I could write extensively just about the film but instead, I will tell you that even if you’ve never even heard of The Residents, you should attend just to see the film.

After the film was over the current trio line-up of Randy, Chuck, and Bob took to the stage to complete the trilogy of life in reverse. That is, Randy, Chuck, and “Rico” took to the stage as apparently Bob has chickens to tend to on his farm and has since retired from the touring ensemble. Of course, the story could have just as easily been that Bob was killed in a tragic hedge trimming accident and no one would have even blinked an eye at the veracity of such an account. As fans of The Residents have come to appreciate, it’s not the iconic individual personas that make the magic, it’s the collective belief in what the group stands for and how they go about making their art visual, aural, performative, and sometimes all three simultaneously. As Randy shared with the audience after the opening song Rabbit Habit, Shadowland represented the final stage of life in reverse. First, there was “Talking Light” in 2010, which examined the nature of death and the spiritual. Next, there was the amorous “Wonder of Weird” three years later, centered on adoration and intercourse. Finally, completing the cycle of life in reverse, Shadowland, which dealt with themes of birth and reincarnation, gave way to two hours of spoken performance, film interludes, and songs off albums as old as Duck Stab (1978) and as recent as Our Finest Flowers (1992).

The twenty or so songs were woven within a loose narrative of 5 short video diaries featuring stories about death and dying from The Butcher, The Libertine, The Garbage Man, The Diver, and The Engineer. The performance never felt overly didactic but even the casual observer could piece together a narrative that followed the life/death dialectical. Narratives, plots, and mise-en-scène aside, The Residents, who are often considered filmmakers first and musicians second, put on an impressive musical performance that highlighted moments of virtuosity from each of the three masked men despite the frequent claim that The Residents barely knew how to play their instruments. Although limited to keyboard, guitar, and voice (save the marching drum during Constantinople) the Residents three made enough sound to make Fela’s Africa 70 proud. This was due in part to The Residents firm embrace of evolving technologies since the group began experimenting with early video recording and eventually becoming avant-garde pioneers in the digital age exploring mediums such as the cd-rom and 3D animation. Needless to say, The Residents, whoever they are, haven’t lost their edge, their wit, their humor, or their ability to put on an incredible show without ever flying to dangerously close to the spectacular. Go and witness it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be blown away!

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Setlist:
Rabbit Habit
Fever Dreams
Golden Guy
(“The Butcher” movie)
Herman, the Human Mole
Harry the Head
Benny (The Bouncing Bump)
(“The Libertine” movie)
Caring
Is He Really Bringing Roses?
(“The Garbage Man” movie)
Blue Rosebuds
Weight-Lifting Lulu
Constantinople
(Randy on bass drum)
(“The Diver” movie)
My Second Wife
Loss of Innocence
(“The Engineer” movie)
Melon Collie Lassie
Hard and Tenderly
Ship of Fools
Encore:
Mourning Glories
Play Video
Forty Four

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