#BandsYouNeedToSeeLiveBefore YouDie: A Perfect Circle

14 Jul

Rolling along with our series of #BandsYouNeedToSeeLiveBeforeYouDie, this post is acting simultaneously as a concert review as well, being that I saw this band last night at Hammerstein Ballroom. Today, everyone’s favorite supergroup, A Perfect Circle, takes center stage.

Like many A Perfect Circle fans, I first gained interest in the band because of Tool and later on The Smashing Pumpkins – members of APC Maynard James Keenan and James Iha both share(d) duties with the aforementioned two bands respectively. But that presupposition does APC little justice. Sure, there’d be times parts of their songs remind me of the crunchiest Tool riffs (guitarist Billy Howerdel was also a guitar technician for Tool before forming A Perfect Circle) while some of the dreamier, winding solos remind me of Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. But A Perfect Circle is definitely its own entity, an achievement unto itself when you analyze other supergroups. More importantly, however, for many in my age group, A Perfect Circle represents high school and, with it, the discovery of new music.

Because I’ve liked A Perfect Circle since their debut masterpiece Mer de Noms, I just had to see them live when they announced they were getting back together after a hiatus in the mid 2000s. I never got the chance to see them while I was in high school mostly because of parental restrictions, but I’ve seen Tool over ten times I think at this point. So when they announced a nationwide tour a few months ago, I was able to pounce on tickets and scored two to see them on July 13th in Hammerstein Ballroom.

In the weeks leading up to the show, while APC was out on tour, I couldn’t help but look online and read the setlists; I can’t help it, I’m a music nerd. To my dismay, it seemed as if the band insisted on comprising half their setlist with songs from eMOTIVe, easily their weakest effort. Absent were standout tracks such as “Judith”, “3 Libras” (the album version), “Blue”, “Thomas”, the list goes on and on. Not promising considering the money I dropped for the pair of tickets and coupled with the fact drummer Josh Freese would not be touring with the band. No bother, it’s the point of no return. I’ll go and make the best of it and just enjoy the hell out of songs like “The Hollow” and “The Noose.”

After the opening band, Red Bacteria Vacuum, finished, I became aware that that feeling that I get before concerts – the excitement, anticipation, nervousness that settles in the bottom of your belly – was absent. Maybe I’m just old and jaded from going to so many concerts in my life. Or maybe I’m just not that excited to see one of my favorite bands. Both possibilities made me feel uneasy.

The house lights slowly faded and the crowd started buzzing. Out walked the band onto the stage, one by one. Predictably so, Maynard was last to join his bandmates. He gets on the mic and starts singing the opening track off of eMOTIVe , “Annihilation.” The singing as opposed to the whispering in the album version gave me goosebumps and fit in with the political decor of the stage. As the song finished, the rest of the band kicked into gear and ripped right into their cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, a Strong Move if I ever saw one. First two tracks off of eMotive were played and so far, I couldn’t be happier. I started getting that feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is A Perfect Circle.

The next two songs were two of my favorites, “Weak and Powerless” and “The Hollow”, both of which were played flawlessly. The guitar work by Howerdel and Iha was most compelling to me, and the way they worked through and complimented one another formed the backbone of the show. But the star is Keenan, hidden in the shadows on a platform towards the back of the stage. While he did not display the same bravado as he shows at Tool shows, he was spot on on nearly every song, some of them more challenging vocally than some of his efforts with Tool. While he did share some singing duties with Howerdel and bassist Matt McJunkins, he had no problem taking backseat in songs like “People Are People” and “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” It was refreshing seeing him wearing a different hat (ironic since he actually wears a different wig at APC shows than Tool shows) as a different kind of member in this band.

The chemistry of the band was the one thing that stood out to me, considering they just came off of a few years worth of a hiatus and the fact that these are disjointed musicians part of other projects. While you would not confuse them as best of friends, the band legitimately seemed to enjoy playing together and many smiles were shared throughout the show primarily between Iha, Howerdel, and McJunkins. Iha particularly had this magnetic force about him, playing off of his other members, the Scottie Pippen of the band, a perfect second banana. Seeing him live made me yearn in seeing a fully reunited Smashing Pumpkins play a show together. Curious that he’s no longer willing to play with Billy Corgan, but has no problem working with Keenan, which leads me to believe Maynard isn’t as big an asshole as we are led to believe. Corgan on the other hand…

While the band did end up playing most of eMOTIVe (in fact, they really didn’t deviate much from the setlists they had played at other shows), all of them were enjoyable some more so than others (“Counting Bodies Like Sheep…” being one of them, one of my favorites of the night). They even played a new song “By and Down” which they closed with, which leads some to believe there is a new APC album coming out. If the rest of the new songs sound anything like this one, we are in for a treat.

While the band barely talked to the crowd, they plowed through their set without much a break in between songs. They meant business. Here’s the setlist from last night:

Annihilation, Imagine, Weak and Powerless, The Hollow, What’s Going On, People Are People, The Outsider, Peace Love and Understanding, When The Levee Breaks, The Noose, 3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix), Gravity, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, Magdalena, Passive, Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm of the War Drums, Fiddle and the Drum, By and Down

Not my ideal setlist by any means, but it was executed perfectly and at some point, if it’s an artist who’s vision I admire, I respect their professional decisions. We were truly treated to musical geniuses doing what they love. I’ll pay whatever to see that.

They’re playing tomorrow at the Beacon Theater in New York so if you missed them at Hammerstein, try snagging some tickets on stubhub or at the venue, wherever. It’s definitely worth it. They will also be touring throughout the United States through August.

Here’s a video of them performing one of my favorite tracks by them, “The Noose”


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