Full of fiction and reflections of insanity: The Residents’ live concert “Talking Light: Bimbo’s”

By on November 17, 2017

Now streaming for our subscribers is the Residents‘ live concert, Talking Light: Bimbo’s, shot on April 16, 2011, the final night of their 2011 Talking Light tour in front of a sold-out crowd at Bimbo’s 365 club in San Francisco. Watch it now over on Night Flight Plus!

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The nearly two-hour live concert film showcases the Residents’ longtime fascination with spooky stories, with songs that are filled with various characters’ obsessions with ghosts, imaginary people, and supernatural phenomena.

The concept behind this intimate, home-y stage setting is that the Residents have realized that they are at a point in their musical careers that they wanted to base a show around re-visiting some of their darkly-morbid older songs about aging and death, and collect them together as a way to tell “ghost stories,” using the concept to further examine our own mutual mortality.

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The Talking Light tour was conceptually based around drastically-reinterpreted tracks which would be released on the Residents 2011 album Lonely Teenager.

That album contained a mixture of new stories/songs and re-arranged, re-interpreted and re-recorded songs from the band’s back catalog, going all the way back to Duck Stab (a seven-inch EP released by The Residents in 1978), and right up to their then most-recent 2008 album The Bunny Boy, which, according to the band’s own blog, contained “19 fast paced songs” about “obsession, insanity and the coming Apocalypse.”

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These re-recorded versions of classic tracks by the Residents — including “Talking Light,” the track providing their tour name, which follows the tale of a “lonely teenager” who comes upon a mysterious skeleton baby in a remote desert cottage — also offered the opportunity for the band to re-introduce themselves and their sound to an audience who may not have known about the Residents, who have been around since the 1970s.

One of the Residents’ songs that wasn’t included on the Talking Light tour — “Boxes of Armageddon” from their album The Bunny Boy — lyrically reminds us that the Residents have long been obsessed with the concept of death’s meaning (“reflections of insanity” too!):

“Boxes full of Armageddon, boxes full of death
Boxes sitting in my doorway, boxes someone left for me to see
They were well-worn cardboard boxes, bulging from the weight
Of documents obsessed with mindless slaughter and decay
For me to see boxes that depicted a sad reality
Full of fiction and reflections of insanity”

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Read more about Talking Light: Bimbo’s and the Residents below.

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The new album and North America/European tour — which had begun in January of 2010, and included their May 2010 performance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, in Minehead, England, curated by Matt Groening — also introduced a new look for the band, who were finally ready to drop their anonymous identities, and for the first time in forever would be seen not wearing their traditional eyeball masks (did they ever find that missing one?) and glammed out in black tuxedos.

They’d slimmed down to a trio by this point, as you’ll see.

“Randy Rose,” the Residents’ lead vocalist, can be seen wearing a bald old man mask, with big ears.

He also wears a long red tie — we guess that a lot of clownish grandpas like President Trump are wearing their red ties unfashionably long these days — as well as a bathrobe, boxer shorts, and oversized black & white clown shoes.

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Meanwhile, “Chuck” (keyboards/samples) and “Bob” (guitar) both wear all black, with dark-lensed goggles and cyber-dreadlock wigs. They both stay seated throughout the show.

We’re told during the show that the fourth Resident, drummer “Chuck,” had grown tired of the music business and retired from the Residents prior to the tour in order to go down to Mexico, where he planned to take care of his ailing mother.

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The stage at Bimbo’s 360 was decked out to look like Randy’s living room, complete with a fireplace, a comfy old couch, and and a black-and-white television set usually showing white noise fuzz (often the Residents’ ideas have dealt with totems of popular culture “as seen on TV,” including corporate adverts).

Behind them are video panels which alternate between dark-toned colors and “space scenes,” with videos of creepy characters telling twisted ghost stories (some of these stories later ended up on the DVD Randy’s Ghost Stories).

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Here’s what it says about the “Talking Light” concept tour on the band’s own blog:

The story of the Talking Light piece is basically that of an older man who questions, not only decisions he made as a teenager, but also if the events he remembers from that time happened at all. “A dead infant clutching a ring with an inscription the teenager cannot read” is the stuff of dreams. The following stories in the show may or may not shed light on the inscription. Questions remain unanswered. The Residents study death, not as a horrific end, but as the ultimate question that we all ask while wondering if any of it is even real.

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The ghost of a morbidly obese woman haunts her lesbian lover, filling the void of death with food commercials and Dr. Phil. A man becomes obsessed by the spirit of an executed serial killer who stuffed the mouths of his victims with Pudding Roll Ups, an extinct kid’s food from the 1980’s. A dead boa constrictor named Leonard (after Leonard Cohen, of course) plagues the mind of its former owner, currently consuming Oscar Meyer hot dogs by the dozen. These are just a few of the “ghost stories” told through the magic of The Residents’ Talking Light.

The blog entry ends: “After all, even in death, will you ever forget that COCA COLA ADDS LIFE?”

Watch the Residents’ Talking Light: Bimbo’s tonight on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.