photos by David Rubene
Maynard James Keenan is a busy dude. While likely best known as the front man of Tool, he has two other bands, A Perfect Circle and Pucifer, that vie for his time. He also runs Merkin Vineyards which produces Caduceus Cellars brand wine. Keenan is also a Social Justice Warrior, supporting such causes as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and Axis Of Justice. MJK brought A Perfect Circle to the Xcel Center in St. Paul on Saturday night.
Opening the show were The Beta Machine. The band was formed by A Perfect Circle bassist Matt McJunkins and APC drummer Jeff Friedl . The sound was mellow and harmonious, as McJunkins traded keyboard licks and vocals with Claire Acey on “Again and Again”. Acey had a smokey, mysterious voice that carried powerfully through the mix. McJunkins returned to the bass to blaze through “Rollercoaster”. “Pictures” highlighted Friedl’s eerie style. Their 40-minute set was well received by the raucous crowd.
A Perfect Circle hit the stage at 9 PM, and you could feel the anticipation in the air. In the darkened Xcel Center, the stage appeared shrouded in a gauzy translucent curtain. Three large glowing risers appeared with large LED screens above them. The band opened with “The Package”, concealed behind the fabric wall. Huge shadows of the band members danced like giant puppets throughout the opening number. As the guys broke into “The Hollow” off of the late nineties release Mer de Noms, the curtain dropped. This reveled a jagged coppery gold backdrop, resembling a dystopian forest. The Perfect Circle logo rose like an alien moon behind the leafless trees.
Keenan adopted his usual position, stationary on one of the risers toward the rear of the stage. He was sporting blond pigtails Britney Spears would be proud of. He sounded phenomenal live, with near perfect reproductions of the recorded material. The trees changed color throughout the show, and during “Rose” the forest appeared on fire. One of the more emotional moments of the evening occurred when Keenan sang his rendition of “ Imagine”. As the song ended, Keenan looked out over the sea of lighters and stated “that’s some rock shit right there”. He was comfortable on his perch, as bass and guitar players stalked the stage. Guitarist and founding member Billy Howerdel’s gothy licks reverberated around the X, accentuating the swirling feel of “Weak and Powerless” Former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha did double duty, switching nimbly between guitar and keyboards on his stage right riser.
Lacking the large video screens and laser show of Tool, A Perfect Circle lets the music do the talking, and for 90 plus minutes the band powered through song after song. This is thinking person’s music, and Keenan’s comments between songs touch on current topics but stop short of taking sides. There were lighter moments. Keenan elicited boos from the audience when he stated he was a Packers fan. Spoken word/stand up comic James Iha also showed that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. Most of the evening’s material came from Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step, however there was some new music that came deep in the set. Iha shined on “ Hourglass”, bass heavy and synthy, with an 80’s sound. Hard rocker “The Doomed”, with its religious undertones, had the crowd head banging to the pounding beat. The final number was also a new one. “Feathers” was a towering, beautiful melodic journey, reminiscent of early U2.
One of Maynard’s last comments was one of the most anticipated of the night. After stating that Midwesterners love gossip, he asked the crowd if they would like some. To resounding cheers he then stated that A Perfect Circle would release a new album in 2018.
Hopefully this will bring the boys back to the Twin Cities in short order.
Setlist: The Package – The Hollow – The Noose – Weak And Powerless – Rose – Imagine – By and Down – Thomas – People Are People – Magdalena – Vanishing – Passive – Gravity – 3 Libras – Hourglass – Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums – The Doomed – The Outsider – Feathers