EXISTENTIAL RECKONING: LIVE AT ARCOSANTI (AZ)
OCTOBER 30, 2020
Maynard James Keenan, the mastermind behind Tool and A Perfect Circle, is back with his personal project Puscifer and their fourth studio album, Existential Reckoning. To celebrate the album’s release, Puscifer is giving fans an experience that many are missing during this lockdown pandemic year – a virtual live concert. Live At Arcosanti is a dazzling trip for the visual and audio senses to be enjoyed from the comforts of home.
Lyrically, Existential Reckoning continues the journey of Billy D and his wife Hildy Berger, characters introduced in Puscifer’s second album, Conditions of My Parole. So far, we know that Hildy was abducted by aliens and in the opening scenes of Live At Arcosanti, we see Keenan as Billy D searching the desert with his flip phone pointed to the sky looking for signal.
As the live show begins, we are transported to a stage setting impressively lit with lasers, projections, platforms and cages, and a flooding of lights – clearly, the interior of a spacecraft. Keenan, along with Mat Mitchell (guitar, bass, and keys), Carina Round (vocals and keys), Greg Edwards (bass, guitar, and keys) and Gunnar Olsen (drums), are dressed, quite appropriately, in black suits sand sunglasses, looking very “Blues Brothers”, with a nod to the “Men In Black”.
The production value of this performance is simply astounding. If only this could be experienced live on stage rather than through a computer screen but, alas, we’ll take what we can get. The quirky interactions between Keenan and Round are quite telling, this is not just another performance, this show is a vital chapter in Puscifer’s narrative.
Live At Arcosanti serves as a visual companion to Existential Reckoning, a song-by-song performance of the album. “Grey Area” stands out here–the intense lighting effects and projections pair with the heavy electronic elements in the song perfectly. Also, Keenan and Round’s vocals do a wonderful job interplaying together. Immediately after that, “Theorem” includes great performance, but interspersed throughout are interesting snippets of the band pushing the Billy D narrative forward with the inclusion of a mysterious briefcase.
As the performance progresses into the second half of the album, the staging slowly starts to change from the original set of industrial elements to the appearance of natural earthbound features like cacti. The spacecraft is landing. As Puscifer performs “A Singularity”, the staging is lit up like the night sky and as the camera pulls back, we see a beautiful, almost intimate, performance in the desert.
As the performance enters the final song “Bedlamite”, daylight has reached the land and the desert is lit up with the sun, a very welcoming sight that is almost metaphorical as Keenan sings “Everything will be alright” considering the past chaotic year. This is a great send off to a truly out of this world concert experience.
But it doesn’t end there, the best is yet to come in the form of a drunken night at a mostly dead karaoke bar. The off-key singing and booze-fueled hijinks resulting in a physical escort out of the bar is worth the price of admission.
(Photography by Mitra Mehvar)