Live Review: The Residents, Victor Martinez

30 March 2016 | 4:59 pm | Andrew McDonald

"A throbbing, modern-electronic rock concert, interrupted only by increasingly absurd short films."

There's no obvious opening act for a show by The Residents, so fellow Bluesfest performer Victor Martinez makes as much sense as anyone else. The non-traditionalist guitarist plays a mix of avant-garde- and flamenco-influenced acoustic jazz, with a fascinating focus on percussive performance. What makes Martinez's performance most engaging isn't his absurd skill or speed, though, it's the fact that he somehow manages to make solo instrumental acoustic guitar playing into a performative act, complete with humour and twists and turns. While Martinez's style may not have suggested him as the most obvious opener choice, the more exposure such guitar playing gets, the better. 

Ever anonymous, The Residents have been at the fore of avant-garde, experimental music for over 40 years, and in this final act of the 'Randy, Chuck and Bob' trilogy, Shadowland, it's clear why. Taking the form of a retrospective of their entire career, spanning back to material from the '70s, Shadowland was a performance that focussed on "birth, rebirth, reincarnation and near-death experiences". Equal parts gig and theatre, the show brought the typical, bizarre, pop sound of the band and turned it into a throbbing, modern-electronic rock concert, interrupted only by increasingly absurd short films. Over their career, The Residents have realised one of the most interesting and forward-thinking songbooks of the 20th and 21st centuries, and reimagining these into a loose narrative about the beginning and end of life seems like a suitable way to perhaps round out their career. Not that this was explicitly an 'end of career' show, though the lack of iconic eyeball masks and the wanton destruction of The Residents' typical sound for a heavier and more industrial sonic palette certainly would make for a grand final note for one of the most exciting, and startlingly still relevant, bands of the last four decades.