In spring of 1989, The Residents brought their “History of American Music in 3 EZ pieces” tour to Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York for that year’s “Serious Fun” avant-garde music/performance art festival. It was the second time I would see The Residents live and it was a memorable musical theatrical experience, I can assure you. Either the night before or the night after I can’t recall, I saw Diamanda Galas in the same theater performing her “Masque of the Red Death” trilogy and nearly bringing the walls down with the demonic intensity of her performance. (Ann Magnuson, Eric Bogosian, Spalding Gray and Richard Foreman’s production of Philip Glass’s ‘‘The Fall of the House of Usher’’ opera were also a part of that year’s festival)
Alice Tully Hall is a plush, intimate (1086 seats) recital hall that normally hosts the New York Film Festival and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Because of the “classy” setting, the show promised to be “more” than previous live Residents outings. Seeing The Residents at Lincoln Center seemed irresistible, but I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go with me, so I went alone [I’ve never been able to rope in a friend to see The Residents with me, not once! The first time I’d caught The Residents, also alone, was a few years earlier, during their 13th anniversary tour at The Ritz nightclub (now Webster Hall). About ten minutes into the show, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat arrived and stood near me on the balcony. About 20 minutes later they said something to each other and left immediately.]
The performance consisted of three-acts: “Buckaroo Blues” told the story of America through cowboy music, “Black Barry” via slave songs, blues and jazz and in the final Elvis section, “The Baby King,” The Residents essayed a senile Elvis telling his grandchildren (“Shorty” and “Shirley,” two freaky ventriloquist’s dummies) about his life before the British Invasion killed him. The show featured elaborately choreographed dance numbers and back-lit sets. As you might expect, the acoustics were pretty near perfect in a place like Alice Tully Hall.
More after the jump…