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Pop Music Review

Residents Cast Eerie Light on Religion's Dark Side

April 26, 1999|NATALIE NICHOLS

Opening the first of three rare Residents shows at the House of Blues over the weekend, the avant-garde collective's skull-masked narrator explained Friday that the performance, based around the group's 1998 album "Wormwood," was intended "not to trash Jesus, but maybe, just maybe, to shine a little light way back in the dark corners and show that the Good Book is also the Bad Book."

For more than two hours, the San Francisco group, whose members have been anonymous for more than 25 years, conducted an absurd theatrical catechism, examining through biblical tales of rape, murder and betrayal the earthly horror that is inextricably bound to the heavenly deliverance on which Christian faith is founded.

Clad in vestment-like white robes, four musicians with top-hatted, blue-irised eyeballs for heads crafted a sparse, eerie atmosphere of pulsating keyboards, booming percussion and dissonant guitar, as two brightly masked singer-dancers gave blackly humorous accounts of tormented women and not-so-benevolent leaders.

Yet the program celebrated humanity, warts and all. In the process it underscored that, though today we blame inexplicable cruelty and suffering on violent mass entertainment, they are part of our most sacred dealings with God. As the skull-head asked, "Where would Jesus be without his Judas?"

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