A Perfect Circle sticks to the shadows with a phone-free Vancouver show

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      Before the festivities began at A Perfect Circle on Thursday, an announcement came over the speaker at the Pacific Coliseum, stating taking pictures on cameras or cellphones would lead to automatic ejection from the show.

      That hard line is starting to become more common these days which is a welcome thing; most of us have experienced the mistery of standing behind someone who’d rather watch a show through a screen than enjoy the real thing. Knowing that a bright screens weren’t going to be popping up all around you this night was refreshing.

      Security was everywhere, and not a single phone was pulled out for the entire concert. It felt like being at a show in the ‘90s. All that was missing were disposable Kodaks and Bic lighters.

      A Perfect Circle kicked things off with “The Package” from 2003’s Thirteenth Step, a giant sheet of white fabric hung in front of the stage, lights making the band’s members look 30 feet tall. Once the heavy chords kicked in, the sheet dropped to reveal the band in regular size, but still in the shadows! This was the case for the entirety of the set. You literally could not see most of the band other than their outlines for most of the night.

      The stage set up did look great however, with metallic drapes reflecting the strobe and laser projections, three podiums for the musicians to perch on, as well as three valance-style LED screens above the group.

      Singer Maynard James Keenan’s vocals cut through the music nicely when he belted out his trademark scream. Chief songwriter and resident q-ball Billy Howerdel thrashed and ran around, looking menacing as he ripped into guitar chords.

      James Iha—former guitar sideman from the Smashing Pumpkins—proved once again that he is really compatible with bald rock guys named Billy. Iha complimented Howerdel’s guitars nicely as well as adding some synthesizer sounds to the mix.

      Bassist Matt McJunkins made rock star poses and jumped about, while drummer Matt Freidl did his best Josh Freese impression.

      The Pacific Coliseum is basically a concrete dungeon, so usually you have to deal with the sound being a bit washed out. On this night, the sound engineer deserved a beer for his or her efforts as the mix was fantastic. The sound in the hockey rink was crisp, and you could hear all of the instruments clearly and with minimal echo.

      Considering Thirteenth Step was the last actual studio album by A Perfect Circle, it seemed fitting the group leaned heavily on songs like “Halo”, “Vanishing”, “Blue”, “A Stranger”, and “Weak and Powerless”.

      The rest of the set had fan favourites “Rose,” “The Hallow”, and a completely reworked version of “3Libras” from the 2000 debut Mer De Noms. A remixed version of “Counting Bodies Like Sheep” got the crowd headbanging, which led into the recently released single “The Doomed”.

      The new track was a highlight of the night, amping up the energy and getting lots of fist pumping and head thrashing from a previously docile audience. Two other new compositions were a bit of a departure, with one having Howerdel take over the lead vocals.

      Prior to a haunting cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Keenan spoke about how the song was included on 2004’s Emotive, A Perfect Circle’s politically-charged covers album.  Noting the record was a “political hot potato”, he said that the band was trying to warn us about right-wing politicians like George Bush.

      He went on to say that this did no good, apologizing with “Sorry about our country” which erupted into cheers from fans.

      Later in the evening things got a bit weird with Iha taking the mic and proceeding to ask the crowd “Are you having a reasonable time?”. He then asked “Does anyone here do performance art?”, and told a drummer joke, as well as this zinger: “Where do penguins keep their money? In a snowbank”. Thank you James!

      After mostly some groans and a few cheers from the audience, A Perfect Circle played its last two songs, thanked its fans, and left the stage after an hour-and-a-half set.

      This show might have been better served in a more intimate venue such as the Queen Elizabeth or Orpheum theatres, though APC has the arena-sized riffs it isn’t an arena-sized band. With most of the group’s members draped in shadow for the entirety of the show, they don’t exactly seem to be craving the spotlight.

      A Perfect Circle delivered a great performance that never really climaxed but maintained a steady pace with small highlights sprinkled throughout the show.

      Best of all, no one watched the night through a screen.

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