The Residents

Demons Dance Alone [DVD]

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The Demons Dance Alone DVD documents the Residents' 2002 tour of the same name, but as with all things Residential, they bring their own special warped aesthetic to the table and push creative boundaries as they have done for 30 years now. As Residents tours go, this one was pretty stripped-down, and there were problems with documenting it from a technical perspective. If they shot with standard video techniques, the lighting required for a decent picture was something less than flattering to the sets and costumes. The decision was then made to shoot with night-vision technology, which yields an image colored with various shades of green. Their solution was to utilize the night-vision footage, but using computers, they enhance the contrast and add colors, while also editing still shots and other footage into the mix. The visual effect of the video ties in nicely with the Demons Dance Alone concept, as the songs were written in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the costumes of the lead singers were camouflage tuxedos, so elements of this video are highly reminiscent of night-vision news footage that accompanied George W. Bush's wars, almost like some weird war telethon. It's this type of constant innovation and high concept that kept the Residents at the forefront of experimental and avant-garde rock for three decades now. But there was also something very different about this tour. It began with longtime face of the Cryptic Corporation, Hardy Fox, personally greeting attendees as they entered the venues. The music was still obviously that of the Residents, but they were getting more and more accessible musically as the millennium turned over. Perhaps the most startling element of the show was the genuine rapport the musicians seemed to enjoy with the audience. In the past, their complete anonymity acted almost as a wall between audience and performer, but on the Demons Dance Alone tour this wall all but disappeared. Oh, they're still completely anonymous, but they treat their audience to actual personal details about the lead singer's life in Louisiana, and a thought-provoking encounter with James Brown. Just prior to that, there are a couple verses that refer specifically to their bizarre career and lack of commercial success, as well as describing themselves as "aging hippies." This type of self-referencing/acknowledgment was completely unheard of up to this point in their long career, and almost seemed to be a genuine gesture of affection to an audience they must be grateful to. And the curtain call somehow reinforced this connection to the audience; it was a strange, wonderful, and somehow touching close to the show.

Without a doubt, the Residents are not for everyone. There is no escaping the fact, though, that this group is comprised of creative geniuses who have proved it over and over again in a 30-plus-year career. They may have softened their impact over time, but not their creativity. Long live the Residents.