Concert Review: A Perfect Circle at HEB Center: reconstituted alt-rock veterans cranked out an elegant, atmospheric set in Austin, TX.
It’s been six years since A Perfect Circle toured North America, and nearly 14 years since their last album. But as their well received, stellar set at Austin/Cedar Park’s HEB Center proved, absence has only made the heart grow fonder for their rabid fanbase.
Following “cholo-goth” support act Prayers (give those guys a listen), APC kicked things off with The Package, the opening track from sophomore album 13th Step. The group were obscured by scrim and harsh backlighting, creating ghostly silhouettes–until the song kicked into high gear, and the veil dropped during the climax.
Vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s pipes were in fine form, his unique croon ringing out with bell-tone clarity. He sang on a riser towards the back of stage, allowing guitarist/primary songwriter Billy Howerdel and Eagles of Death Metal bassist Matt McJunkins to rock out front and center.
The band tore through a slew of impressive tracks from their three studio albums. Songs like The Noose, Rose and Weak and Powerless were complimented by fog machine haze and a spectacular light setup.
Before the band began their dark rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine (off 2004’s Emotive) Keenan noted they were criticized for taking a stance against the Bush Administration: they told me to shut up and not be political. Like I’m just going to shut up?
The singer didn’t bother mentioning our current president by name. He didn’t have to: the song spoke volumes.
In addition to covering Depeche Mode’s People are People, other standouts included Magdalena, Keenan’s ode to an exotic dancer (featuring his most impressive vocal performance of the night), the haunting Thomas and an utterly transfixing Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums.
Keenan went off on another humorous tangent later in the set: I may be a libtard snowflake but I’m an armed libtard snowflake! He then professed that while he leans left, he hates political correctness, and there should be more songs about anal sex. This prefaced a rousing rendition of Thinking of You, culminating with Keenan working out with shake-weights while the band locked into a militarized groove. It was pretty magical.
The sound mix was excellent: every ethereal guitar flourish from Howerdel (and Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, who also played keyboards) resonated, while the rhythm section of McJunkins and drummer Jeff Frield hit square in the chest.
Towards the end of the show Keenan gave a shout out to his band members (joking that it was contractually obligated), which concluded with Iha unleashing a stream of corny jokes on the audience: Where does a Penguin keep its money? In a snow bank (I now have a mental image of Keenan and Iha telling each other terrible jokes on their tour bus–please make this into a podcast).
The band concluded with Feathers, a churning, atmospheric piece that will appear on the band’s upcoming new album. There was no encore–or a performance of Judith, the band’s biggest hit, but the crowd was well satiated. 2017 might be the year where we get new albums from APC AND Tool. It’s a very good time be a Maynard James Keenan obsessive.
APC HEB LIVE SETLIST:
Weak and Powerless
(John Lennon cover)
By and Down
People Are People
(Depeche Mode cover)
Thinking of You
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)
Feathers* (New Song)