Zu and Mike Patton: Two Great Tastes That Don't Taste Great Together 

Live at the Great American, 3/19.

On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven. What two entities could have a more harmonious union than avant-metal Italians Zu and pillar of modern experimentalism Mike Patton? But as rules are meant to be broken, some marriages are meant to end bitterly and violently.

First off, Thursday's show at the Great American Music Hall was astoundingly intimate for any Patton appearance as the venue seemed filled to just a quarter of capacity. This, combined with no live opener, made it already a peculiar night. However, the real weirdness was about to come from the performance itself.

Yes, yes. We all know that Patton makes weird music. Scratch that, he lives, breathes and is it. Everyone who follows his twenty-year-long career knows that his cacophony is not only derived from individual projects like the dark and chaotic Fantômas, but also from the fact that he has a different band for each mood, phase, or day of the week. Patton is a chameleon who still manages to maintain a succinct point of view in music. In short, you are in for a weird show if Patton is involved. However, the strangest aspect of Patton and Zu's collaboration was that it just didn't seem to meld.

Zu's horn-heavy brand of jungle metal would normally seem like the perfect backdrop to Patton's arsenal of vocal-bending gadgets. However, after two minutes, it all seems to remind you of an elephant getting served by an evil robot in a dance-off. That is the only way to make sense of such a harsh, clashing pile of sound. If you thought Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante was inaccessible, this was an impenetrable fortress. Patton's vocals seemed to be fighting for space, leaving the whole performance without a focal point.

A nicer representation of Patton's added trimmings to Zu are most definitely heard on the group's latest release, Carboniferous. There, Patton hugs the background beautifully, allowing the instrumental mania to take center stage while his vocals add small but strong accents to the overall sound.

However, it's understood that you can't really do that live. Perhaps Patton and Zu executed the live collaboration the only way possible, by letting Patton do what he does best. If this was their biggest folly, it's certainly forgivable. Either way, the audience was treated to an interesting band led by the most interesting of men, which is not entirely a loss.


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