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A Perfect Circle at Marquee Theatre Last Night

A Perfect Circle
Marquee Theatre
November 4, 2010

There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air before A Perfect Circle took the stage at a sold-out Marquee Theatre last night. It's not often you go to a concert and feel like you're part of a rare and significant happening -- a genuine, save-your-ticket-stub event -- but that's exactly what this show felt like. Coming off a six-year hiatus, A Perfect Circle delivered a strong, mostly tight performance on the first of three consecutive nights in Tempe.

Last night's show kicked off a five-city, 14-date tour that will see the band perform all three of it's albums on consecutive nights in Tempe, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, capped off by a two-night stint in Las Vegas. The band's first (and best) album, Mer de Noms, was the focus of last night's set, and APC fans really couldn't have asked for more.

For a band that's been inactive for so long, APC showed few signs of rust. In his typically reclusive fashion, lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan stood on a platform in the left rear corner of the stage, facing sideways towards guitarist James Iha and drummer Josh Freese. Lead guitarist/songwriter/founding member Billy Howerdel showed off his considerable chops, expertly replicating the chugging riffs, blistering leads and quieter, effects-driven passages that made Mer de Noms such a memorable album.

Keenan's voice has held up remarkably well in the 10 years since the album's initial release. He opted to not even try hitting the higher end of his register during the "sweet revelation" portion of "Thinking of You," instead staying an octave lower, but that's a pretty minor quibble for an otherwise impressive performance. Keenan is still deserving of his reputation as one of rock's best vocalists, and APC - even moreso than Tool - allows him to really show off his range and melody. Mer de Noms is a pretty demanding album vocally, and Keenan was largely up to the task. Howerdel and bassist Matt McJunkins also chipped in on some nice harmonies throughout the set.

As is his custom, Keenan kept the stage banter to a minimum, aside from the obligatory 'thanks for coming" spiel and an aside about how "the Democrats had their asses handed to 'em in Arizona." There were a few jammy excursions here and there, but the band mostly stayed faithful to the original album. The highlight of the night was probably the mid-album one-two punch of "Sleeping Beauty" (a showcase for Keenan's vocal prowess) and "Thomas," which took on a heavier, sludgier sound in a live setting.

Even before the show, I was wondering what APC would come up with for an encore, and suffice it to say, I was not disappointed. The band played an extended version of the Cure's "Lovesong," which incorporated elements Ozzy Osbourne's "Diary of a Madman." A cover of David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" followed. Before the final song, Keenan announced that "this is one we've only played once" (presumably here), and Iha stepped up to the keyboard and started pounding out the opening bars of the band's discordant take on "Imagine." Keenan stopped the song abruptly after just one line, but the second take was virtually flawless, sending the capacity crowd home feeling like they'd been part of something special.

A Perfect Circle more than lived up to the immense hype surrounding this brief tour. Here's to hoping it's not another six years before they come back.

Setlist

The Hollow
Magdalena
Rose
Judith
Orestes
3 Libras
Sleeping Beauty
Thomas
Renholdër
Thinking of You
Breña
Over

Encore:
Diary of a Lovesong (Cure/Ozzy cover)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie cover)
Imagine (dude, if you have to ask...)

Critics Notebook:

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Personal Bias: Mer de Noms is by far my favorite APC album.

The Crowd: Hipsters, heshers, skaters and squares. Basically, a cross-section of 21st-century white America.

Overheard in the Crowd: "If I owned a place like this, I would try to get big bands in here and charge 500 bucks a head. I'm talking big bands... like Nickelback." (Special thanks to my friend Dave for catching this gem.)

Random Notebook Dump: "They're making the bassist earn his paycheck." (Speaking as a bass player myself, one of the best parts of the gig is that you're relatively anonymous. Even if you fuck up, the only people who notice are other bassists. Poor McJunkins, however, was front and center for the entire show. Sucks to be you, dude.)

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