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SAN FRANCISCAN anonymous art collective The Residents have deservedly earned themselves underground cult-legend status since forming aeons ago in the 1960s.
The act’s most recognisably unrecognisable disguise and trademark has been the donning of giant eyeballs covering their entire heads.
Over the years, these disguises have become more and less inventive. The group’s singer and founding member, known only as Randy Rose and now well into his seventies, has been many things, from nightmarish clown to creepy old man.
Tonight he is dressed as a cow while his cohort are out in plague masks.
Who knows what it could all mean but what is certain is that proceedings only get more and more surreal from here on in.
Rose’s bizarre, jerky dance moves segue into various floating-head apparitions of former US president Richard Nixon, actor John Wayne and Mother Teresa, who each tell their own creepy stories from a spherical globe suspended above the Union Chapel's pulpit — a fitting piece of symbolism, perhaps.
The Resident’s ability to unsettle is cemented as Randy frequently fills the former church with resounding guttural screams, while the eerily dark stage has the group largely shrouded in mist.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that small sections of the audience decide to wave the white flag and leave well before the show’s over and that’s probably not unheard of during a Residents gig. The evacuees include a woman who appears to leave behind her boyfriend/partner/date to endure the remainder of the show alone.
But The Residents aren’t completely unlistenable. There’s a wonderfully freakish cover of James Brown’s It's a Man’s Man’s Man’s World and more than once they can be pretty tuneful. Not the kind of live act to take a date to but, given some commitment, their uncompromising sound invariably reaps its own rewards.
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