Puscifer – Palace Theatre – St. Paul, MN – July 3rd, 2022

Puscifer with Moodie Black Palace Theatre – St. Paul, MN – July 3rd, 2022

Review and photos by Kate Klaus

Theatrical rock group Puscifer is known for their eccentrically creative, humorous, quirky, and yet thoughtful and beautiful performances, where one is to expect the unexpected, and their stop at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, MN was no exception.  Out on their first North American run in 6 years, the Existential Reckoning tour is in support of the 2020 album which musically presents both a subtly satirical and thoughtful and poignant commentary on society, with themes including personal technology reliance, the value of entertainment over substance, and the delicate balance between survival, creativity, and over-indulgence.

After an opening set by “noise rap” group Moodie Black, filled with oddly pleasing dissonance and abrasive tones, Puscifer opened with a brief video featuring front-man Maynard James Keenan as “Agent Dick Merkin”, instructing the crowd on how to avoid being ground into SPAM by adhering to the strict no phones/no recording rules.  He then took the stage with female lead Carina Round, both dressed Men-in-Black style with formal dark suits contrasted with outlandish hairstyles and Maynard’s gaudy makeup.  Opening song “Bread and Circus” set-up the theme with lyrics describing how we are in the middle of our existential reckoning having “traded …our voice and our light, self-sovereignty… for nothing more than concessions, fireworks, pageantry and glitter…”.  As the set progressed, they presented more playfulness, with the introduction of additional characters on stage, including aliens and a Peter Merkin-like character who was caught using his phone to record from the photo pit and was promptly chased, caught, and hauled off stage by other Men-in-Black style guards that had been wandering the stage. Throughout all of this, guitarist Mat Mitchell remained solidly stoic in the back of the stage with a quietly powerful presence producing stunningly beautiful tones and riffs.

The 3-act performance featured a mix of introspective and contemplative songs including “Personal Prometheus” and “A Singularity” as well as the more lively and energized songs like “Bullet Train to Iowa”, and sprinkling in a few favorites from previous albums, including “Momma Sed” and “Humbling River”.  Throughout the songs there was hilarious moments of odd dancing, antics including the aliens trying to “probe” Maynard with light saber-like wands, Maynard as the Peter Merkin character haggling drummer Gunnar Olsen (who’s powerful drumming was a fabulous addition to the always-rotating Puscifer line-up), and the set change videos of Agent Merkin describing the alien infiltration into the Hollywood red carpet scene, but these moments were thoughtfully and cleverly mixed with poignant reminders of the difficulties we face as a society, and our struggles to balance the creative with the practical, over-indulgence with sustainability and creativity with utility.  When they closed their performance with the hauntingly beautiful “Bedlamite”, the lyrics “it’s gonna be alright, everything will be alright” resonated off the walls of the Palace theater and through the hearts and minds of the crowd.  Because as Maynard said in his opening monologue to their 2011-2012 Conditions of my Parole Tour “the cornerstone of what Puscifer is, is an attempt to reconnect with this seemingly lost balance. Because we at Puscifer feel that life is too short not to create something with every breath we draw”.  And ultimately, Puscifer is so much more than a concert.  Their music and message gave the crowd 2 hours to do just that, reconnect and identify with that balance that will be the hope that we need for everything to be alright.