A Perfect Circle is a more patient act than Maynard James Keenan’s other band, and with that comes a reasonably modest stage setup.
Sports arenas do not easily lend themselves to intimate musical performances, and shows in those wide-open spaces usually rely more on lavish, over-the-top production value. Sonically, A Perfect Circle have always existed somewhere in the space between restraint and excess, with patiently-crafted drum textures and oversized guitar riffs that, combined, flirt playfully with the boundaries that exist between the two.
A Perfect Circle is a more patient act than Maynard James Keenan’s other band, and with that comes a reasonably modest stage setup. There are still LED screens, sure, but they exist here as three large, long bars above the stage and affixed to the risers. The set began with Thirteenth Step opener “The Package,” with the band shrouded by a white cloth, their long shadows looming over the crowd. Keenan’s silhouette existed only when singing, with darkness occupying the space when silent. As he growled out “Give this to me” and the song’s first distorted riff appeared, the curtain dropped, revealing a stage adorned with mesh cloth that looked more like gnarled trees, and Keenan stood on a lit platform. Throughout the 90-minute show, his face was never visible, as he instead opted to be a faceless silhouette haunting the background of the performance. Picking up the visual slack was the rest of the relentlessly tight band, including Ashes Divide founder Billy Howerdel and the James Iha, who functioned in perfect lockstep with the drum section (the band’s best asset), tonight manned by John Freidl.
Though Keenan mentioned midway through the set that 2018 will bring a new APC album, their last proper album was 2003’s Thirteenth Step, while their last two releases, aMOTION and eMOTIVe, were a remix album and a covers album, respectively, and were released in late 2004. The band leaned most heavily on Thirteenth Step, to my delight. I’ve been a fan of this album since its release, and it was a thrill to watch the band fill a huge space with these songs. Not wanting to only play the dusty old stuff, they did bring out three new tracks to tease the crowd, including the outrageously fun “The Doomed.”
A Perfect Circle is a very serious band, and Keenan is a very serious musician, but there were still more than a few moments of levity. At the end, just before closing with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dog Eat Dog” (which Keenan described as, “Featuring me, doing my best Brian Jones, who is doing his best Bon Scott”), Iha told terrible dad jokes to measured applause from the audience. Earlier, Keenan apologized for being sick and went on a riff about home cold remedies (including VapoRub on your feet and—since it’s Keenan—having sex with a live chicken). Later, mid-song, he joked that a third remedy that’d been suggested was “Doing a Shake Weight workout in the middle of this song,” at which point—and this is true—he produced two Shake Weights from the platform beneath him.
It’s hard to know if those sillier moments, and the finesse that A Perfect Circle possesses, translate as well in a cavernous room like Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Bands like this one, though, have outgrown the club show scene, trading intimacy for the opportunity to rage on a stage bigger than some people’s houses. You may miss out on the thrill of being in a sea of sweaty, moshing bodies when you’re arranged in rows of seats, but what you lose in that catharsis you gain in the cheap thrills of an arena rock show—and in the hands of APC, that’s a pretty good trade.