The Residents Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC March 19

The Residents Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC March 19
In 2012, avant-garde collective the Residents will be celebrating 40 years of existence. Over those four decades, the mysterious and well-guarded cult outfit have issued a staggering 60-plus albums, a handful of DVDs and numerous multimedia projects on every format imaginable. Despite a steady output of material, the Residents haven't toured in almost ten years, though their knack for a hallucinatory and highly original live show hasn't waned, as Vancouver's packed Rickshaw Theatre recently witnessed.

The tour -- dubbed "The Talking Light Tour," which actually began with a handful of shows in 2010 -- is based around the group's recent interest in the ghost story. Dressed as what looked like Michael Jackson impersonators with masks straight out of Mad Max, the guitarist, dubbed "Bob" for the night, and keyboardist/electronics player "Chuck" took the stage and were quickly followed by our storyteller, "Randy," who was dressed as an old man in a bathrobe and oversized tie. Amongst a stage decorated to resemble a living room, with three large circular screens hovering above, the trio dove right into a blaring noise rock piece that filled the cavernous Rickshaw with an ear-splitting wave of sound. The tone was mellowed after that, though, and Randy soon told us that the night was to be dedicated ghost stories.

Somewhat spooky, though usually humorous, tales of invisible sisters, glowing babies and mirror people were told through the Residents' Dada-esque music spectacle. In between songs, Randy, using a handheld projector, bounced videos from screen to screen of heavily made-up and demented-looking characters telling their stories. The music that accompanied these sometimes lengthy tales varied from eerie soundscapes to dissonant carnival-esque jams.

Most of the crowd knew to expect something out of the ordinary and remained mesmerized throughout, but the small portion of audience that was streaming towards the door was either too spooked or expecting the show to be more formal. If only someone had warned them.