The Residents gave a stunning performance at St. George’s Church in Kemp Town, Brighton earlier this month. A curious mix of eccentric costumes, video intermissions, and minimal lighting, juxtaposed with the Church’s traditional Christian surroundings created an eerie and whimsical atmosphere.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the band and their UK tour made a strong point of celebrating it with four special dates in London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Brighton.
The Residents’ career has seen over 60 albums and a large output of videos and films, with over 10 DVDs being released. This tour is in support of their latest album ‘Intruders’, released last year, with the band still kicking their identifiable sound of surrealism and deconstructionism of popular music, securing their iconic status in the experimental, and avant-garde music world.
I became aware of The Residents music a few years ago, and the more I listened to them or tried to unpack the band, the more interested I became. They try to operate in anonymity so not much is known about the members, or who the whole band really are. Their first album ‘Meet the Residents’ was released in 1974 and sold poorly but is now revered as an avant-garde classic. With its disorientating sway from popular music elements, to atonality and an abundance of oddly memorable melodies leaves the listener both perplexed but ultimately intrigued.
This performance was none the less perplexing and intriguing. They arrived on stage in customary costumes so masking their identity, with the band wearing beaks over their faces and the vocalist in a cow costume. What made their performance stand out, even more, was the surroundings. The church had a huge Jesus pinned to the cross hanging above them whilst the audience was seated facing them giving us the impression we were being induced into a bizarre religious cult led by a man in a pig costume.
Their set was supported with fantastic lighting, a wide spectrum of colour and brightness, accentuating particular parts in the songs, or coming randomly, throwing off the audience with ultra-bright blue and red strobe lighting. The show was kept fresh with video intermissions of characters loosely describing unusual dreams and delving off-topic to further confuse the audience.
The musical performance was spectacular with the quartet providing much more noise than what seemed imaginable from four musicians. Props to the guitarist, who’s out of place and inappropriate solos were joyous to listen to, and especially props to the vocalist whose performance during the song ‘the big black’, ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s World’ and, ‘Six More Miles’ was superb.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into The Residents’ show, I was prepared to have my mind blown but was totally unprepared for what I experienced. It’s insane how The Residents or the current musicians playing under the name are carrying on the legacy of what the original lineup stood for and in such a fresh style. The band seems like they could have easily been a product of the last 20 or even 10 years. To have been releasing groundbreaking music, video, and performances since 1969 is truly remarkable and a singularly phenomenal feat.
I urge you to try to see The Residents, even if you’re not a fan of the music. But most importantly, see them in a church.