An Evening With A Perfect Circle

November 1, 2017 - Eagle Bank Arena, Fairfax, VA

A Perfect Circle
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A Perfect Circle was in town in Virginia last week and this was a show I had been looking forward to for quite a while.  Being a long time fan, as well as a fan of the APC members other musical projects, this was a date I had been eyeballing. Opening the night, was the brain child of APC/ Puscifer’s bassist Matt McJunkins and APC/Puscifer’s drummer Jeff Friedl. The Beta Machine, a droning, trip hop-ish sounding rock project with Matt McJunkins and the sultry Claire Acey both leading their pipes to the lead vocal spot.  Beautiful, chill, and just grooving music.  Thanks to Matt and Jeff for deciding to pull the double duty and allow us the opportunity to see this project along with APC!  It was a perfect way to open the night.

As the Eagle Bank Arena went dark, the place erupted.  A glowing, blueish-purple logo illuminated from behind a screen.  I began to see bodies moving beyond the screen and the arena got louder. “The Package” began with Billy Howerdel’s sparkly clean guitar and Jeff Friedl’s drum marching rim shots, giving way to Matt McJunkins thick, powerful bass, that you could feel in your chest, with James Iha’s ambient guitars, carrying an erie vibe.  As each members part came up, their backlit shadow was projected massively on the giant screen that they were ominously grooving behind.  Once all 4 shadows appeared on the screen, it was soon time for what many people were waiting for….Maynard James Keenan!   Well…the shadow of him anyways.  The second his recognizable posture fell on the eyes of the crowd, cheers and screams echoed through the venue.  This, is “A Perfect Circle”.

The screen dropped as they went into their second song.  A well known favorite from their debut album ‘Mer de Noms’, the song “The Hollow” was probably sung by every audience member, from every seat in the house. At least, it sounded like that.  The scenery on stage was very….textured, for lack of a better term.  With thin sheets of battered looking material draped from ceiling, almost all the way down to the stage and strategically, symmetrically placed through the stage, the scene had a real sort of depth to it.  With 3 round platforms towards the back of the stage, each at different heights, with Iha on the left, Keenan in the back/center, and drummer Jeff Friedl on the highest platform on the right side of the stage.  Guitarist and founding member Billy Howerdel and bassist Matt McJunkins had free roam of the stage in front of the platforms.

There are many people who have their opinions on Maynard James Keenan.  Just take to the internet and if you know nothing of him, you’ll either think he’s a terrible person, or a friggin’ genius.  I for one think he is an extremely intelligent being and even though sometimes he’s taken as standoffish and dry, he actually cares about people and the world.  It’s clear through many of his lyrics in multiple musical projects…and it was also clear at the show. During a pause between songs, he took the time to remind people that we were in this together. “Take care of each other”.  He seemed to be just as sick as many of us are in seeing the country being so divided.  So after his words of “love each other”, A Perfect Circle broke into their rendition of the John Lennon song “Imagine” from APC’s record ‘Emotive’.  Some songs have the power to make you reflect.  This is one of them.  And with Maynard and Billy’s harmonizing vocals, singing such a powerful song, it was just beautiful.

The show wasn’t without its aspects of Keenan’s wonderful sense of humor.  The vocalist brought up “Prophets of Rage’s” drummer Brad Wilk, claiming that “he hurt his neck meat”.  Also saying that he (Maynard) may fill in on drums for “Prophets of Rage”.  He said that he was “teaching Jeff Friedl the songs”,  so Jeff could “get his chops up.”

Maynard James Keenan has been known to not be the biggest fan of people…especially the “herd mentality” that engulfs this planets inhabitants. At one point while addressing that issue, he boasted to the crowd that they were actually “here, live, and not staring at their phones gobbling up clickbait”….while having everyone’s attention, he dropped a bomb and announced that there will be a new A Perfect Circle Album in 2018, before breaking into a new song from that album!  Exciting news for us APC fans!!  The new song (which wasn’t “The Doomed”, another new song they debuted a few weeks ago) was certainly in the vein of APC, but with something new. They’ve been clear that their influences span a wide range of genres and time periods…with 80’s music being a huge influence.  But I have not yet heard a song from them that so prominently displayed such influence as this song did. Filled with 80’s reminiscent synth sounds, quite robotic actually, masking  the vocals, it was hard to make out all of the words. He repeated something about Democrats, Republicans, and aristocrats, amongst other political names and parties, before breaking into a classic APC breakdown, with a sequence being chanted.

“10 9er 8, 8765…432”.  After a few chants of this countdown cadence, an abrupt end happened right at 2 and then silence. The crowd was ecstatic to have heard another new song from them. But that silence was short lived. They quickly broke into another classic that resonates with the time and age we live in now.  “Counting Bodies Like Sheep” was, for lack of a better term/feeling, HEAVY!!  APC had quite a few songs that got very heavy in this live setting, but this song was something else.  It certainly seemed to be a huge crowd favorite.

They wrapped the show up with yet another new song.  This one entitled “Feathers”. Another beautiful song filled with Billy Howerdel’s melodic and spacey, pristinely clean guitar.  The vocals definitely reminded me of Tool on this track. Which, is certainly not a bad thing in my eyes.  It’s beautiful. “Feathers” is exactly what I’d be expecting to hear from new A Perfect Circle.  Needless to say, I’m excited for this new album.  Everything we’ve been able to hear so far tells me that I’ll probably have this album on repeat for a while.

All in all, this was a wonderful, beautiful and mysterious show.  Maynard stayed in the back which was to be expected but, Billy certainly made his way around the stage performing his normal solos and guitar parts as well was gracing us with some stunningly gorgeous audio improvisation on the guitar…some of which just had you completely zoned out and floating.

There is still PLENTY of time to see A Perfect Circle on tour before they head to Europe in 2018.  If you’re wondering if you should go….GO.  It sounded amazing. It was visually beautiful, and of course the music hits on so many heart strings, while being “heavy” at the same time. Not many can do that.  Treat yourself and go enjoy this show.

– Jeremy Hinskton – Sik Imagery

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