The Residents parody the Bible

The Residents put on a spectacular live show for the second time at the Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco on Halloween. The performance was as much art as it was entertainment, thrilling us with tales of debauchery and gore from what is probably the most popular book of all time: The Holy Bible.

The band's set consisted mostly of songs from their latest release Wormwood, dealing with the bad side of the Bible. The order of songs was different compared to the album and they missed a couple of tunes (Spilling the Seed and The Seven Ugly Cows). They opened with the first song from the album In the Beginning, with a bit of Jesus Christ Superstar aptly thrown in, and went on to deal with difficult topics that ranged from circumcision (Dinah And The Unclean Skin), incest (Fire Fall) to betrayal (Judas Saves) and murder (Cain and Abel, Kill Him!). A most appropriate set for Halloween night.

In the album, besides the lyrics, there are short introductions to the songs along with citations. Likewise, during the show, Mr. Skull prefixed each song with a highly sarcastic introduction. I think the words used during the latter would've worked better in the album. For each song, there was a figure on a stick (sometimes puppet-like and controlled by the singer) which epitomised the character represented by the song. For a couple of tunes (Bathsheba Bathes and Melancholy Clumps) the band grew to include a Gamelan orchestra. The Residents came back and played Smelly Tongues, Moisture, Picnic Boy, and Walter Westinghouse for the encore.

An important point I should make, for people who didn't care much for the album, is that the music on the album was expressed much better live than in the studio. Each song had a lot more noise in it, the keyboards were less prevalent and the guitar had more power (the album at times sounds a bit like keyboard-doodling), and the vocals were more varied and abrasive and, consequently, more interesting. I think a live version of the show, including the sarcastic introductions, would be better than the album (and the album is great as it is).

This year's poster (they hand out one at the door) is pretty cool, bordering on the obscene (using "community standards", of course, not my own), placing The Residents in their rightful place in Christian mythology.

The Residents emphasised that they were not bashing the Bible, but that by looking at the bad side of it, they were really showing how relevant the Bible is in this day and age. And that they did. This is the Residents live performance that you should not miss.

"I was lifted up high
 to a hole in the sky
 where God told me to dig
 I found figures of pigs.
 He put his butchers to work
 with a competent clerk
 executing those who
 had abandoned the truth."
        ---They are the Meat, 
               The Residents

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || October 31, 1998