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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Puppet Show

Live at RoSFest, April, 2007

Review by Josh Turner

I was told about this band’s emblazoned album. It was said to be good, so I took the word of others on this claim and expected to see some magic performed by them this night. Initially, I was not that sold on this band. Actually, my disdain bordered on disappointment and boredom. Giving them the time that every band deserves, I felt they were perking up a little more with each song. Once they were perculated and warm, and the sound engineers made their tweaks, they began to gain substantial ground. Likewise, as they were improving, there was indication of a “dark” presence in the room. There was a hint of a problem as the lights were fully illuminated or shuttering on several occasions. [Editor's Note: There was a problem with a lighting technician who was drunk and flipped switches indiscriminately. While he was eventually arrested during Starcastle's set, he also created havoc with the sound during the early portions of Puppet Show's performance.] Regardless, the mix was fixed and the beat not only became more tolerable, but invigorating as well.
Later, a fan mentioned to me that their album was a lot better than their performance. Overall, I give them a "thumbs up." The keyboards, vocals, and drums grew on me like one of those sponges you put in water and it eventually swells. Once the catalyst was added, it turned from a blob into a spongy inguana.

My friend, who is a UFC buff, mentioned that the guitarist looked like Tank Abbott, and I have to concur. He was ready for battle in the octagon if you ask me. While we’re on the topic, the bassist could have been my history teacher from High School. If judged on a "America’s Got Talent," they would gain approval, but be asked to work on their wardrobe. On the other hand, the drummer was much younger than the rest and to be honest, better dressed.

The second song was like toy soldiers dancing, and it could have coexisted with the wit and whimsy found on Trick of the Tail or Duke. All around, they were a solid second act who was best at the keyboard-driven melodies; however, their attempts at Genesis were weak.

I enjoyed the “Seven Gentle Spirits," which was obviously influenced by Spock’s Beard. If one hadn’t known, they would have thought it was the sequal to the “The Light."

In terms of stage presence, they had stone expressions but were mostly expressive with their instruments. At times the singer sung off-key. I wonder if he had butterflies in his stomach. He made a staunch attempt to work the crowd with conversation, but in doing so, was somewhat awkward.

“Beautiful Isn’t It?” was among the best songs in the set. In this, I noticed the guitarist used a doodad on the strings that allowed him to play with one hand. The bassist worked harder than an inmate on a chain-gang while the guitar was often silent as if his instrument needed a moment or two to catch its breath. This turned out to be a very long song. Afterwards, the singer mentioned that they had trouble writing a song in 25/7 that was less than eight minutes.

On this night, the hecklers had the wittiest remarks as someone responded with, “Why would you want to?” The singer took this cue and cited, “Exactly!” For some reason or another, it reminded me of a quiz show skit on the Chappelle Show where “I don’t know," “Hell Ya," and “That’s what Newports are” turned out to be correct answers. I could almost hear the ding-ding-ding of the bell following his retort.

This was supposedly the closest they had to a single. The stage was littered with water bottles of various kinds, but seemed to be an opportunity of product placement for Fuji Water and Deer Park.

This act mostly performed epics. The singer stated how they couldn’t throw a 16 minute song out. “The Past Has Just Begun” was a 15 minute song meant to balance out the six minute one. I have to agree that the longer pieces were actually better, and converse to other composers, it seemed easier for them to fill space than be constrained. The longer ones were more melodic, which may have been on purpose so that they could sell their epics. I give them credit for the fact that each song was different, but in terms of style one member was a consistent copy. The drummer was an obvious fan of Rush’s Neil Peart. Likewise, the guitarist presented some great solos that felt like early screenings of Alan Morse. With calibration set to such precise weights and balances such as these, the band is not only going in the right direction, but has potential. The guitarist utilized foot pedals a lot, which seems to be today’s trend, and the singer had a lot of fun, which goes to show his intent is in the right place. This was pleasure before business except for the mention of CD’s in the back. While it may seem as if I am saying this has been done before, to put a twist on things, they had a funk beat with anomalous effects at times. It was as if the over-utilized clip from Clyde Stubblefield had struck again. Yet, they cannot be pigeonholed with one description as they were Looney tunes one minute then Rock then Funk.

Towards the end, the singer stated, “I’m Shawn. Call me whatever you like as long as you buy my CD.” This catchphrase and sales pitch in some ways epitomized the act.

All around, they were clever, and I liked the last song by a hair over the earlier highlight. In this, the guitarist shredded and seemed like he almost had a seizure. As if sprinting for the ticker tape, they had a very strong finish even if they did not have an Olympian's kick. This made up for most (if not all) of their deficiencies. The singer’s voice warmed up throughout the set and was crispy at the end. Unsure of the score, they hurried up and played the encore fast. After further review, I liked this one best. In two minutes or less they delivered a knockout blow. The sound, vocals, and musicianship were finally precise before the giant finish. This was a band where a longer encore was encouraged, but didn’t happen. It was probably best to leave fans wanting more rather than snoring.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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