What better way to spend a Tuesday night than flooded with ethereal visuals and hauntingly heavy audio underneath a canopy of stars? The weather couldn’t have been any better at the Verizon Amphitheater in Atlanta: a balmy 86 degrees with a slight, cool breeze rustling through the stately north Georgia pines. Most in attendance were die hard Tool fans, judging by the number of concert t-shirts in line at the beer stand, looking to slurp up anything the enigmatic, anti-frontman Maynard James Keenan has to offer (myself included).
True to form, Maynard’s compulsion to hang back in the shadows in an effort to bring the music front and center, solidified his on stage philosophy of being one small part of a larger whole. Half melancholy theatrics, half stripped down Pink Floyd audio visual show, A Perfect Circle displayed their own brand of re-imagined rock to an adoring, mystified crowd. Billy Howerdel’s ghostly guitar work is a big component of their sound and fits well with Keenan’s own notion of the genre, attributed by the guitarist as to why the two struck up a musical kinship to begin with. Now, since forming in 1999, A Perfect Circle continues to impress booking a 20 stop spring tour with a set list from only 3 studio albums, the last of which was released 13 years ago in 2004. But not to worry, the buzz in the cheap seats was about the new studio release end of the year or early 2018, with a track slipping out to close the show (“Feathers”)?
Like an ADHD genius creative, Keenan is the cause of such sporadic showings due to dividing his time between 2 other bands (that we know of), Tool and Pucifier, and a winery and vineyard in Arizona. Whew! But, when they come together, the result is a melodic mix of languishing vocals over top rolling melodies creating a world of sadness and desperation. Beautiful and terrifying songs like, “The Package” and “The Noose” seemed to command the rise and fall of our collective pulse rates. Maynard so skillfully crafts musical images of the struggling, flawed human animal. Even more impressive is his empathetic view of drug addiction, something he himself has not dealt with personally, but has seen through friends and loved ones. “Weak and Powerless” is the epitome of this insight.
Curious note, their album “Thirteenth Step” contributed the majority of the set list playing through more than half the tracks from the 2003 release “Mer de Noms”. Missing was “3 Libras” and “Judith”, songs that were released as singles and even had widespread radio play. Another one of Keenan’s anti-establishment twists. However, the night was propped up by a favorite cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and an unrecognizable “When The Levee Breaks” by (credited) Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, NOT Led Zeppelin, both from their cover laden “eMOTIVe” album.
When the concert wrapped, everyone left the venue thoroughly entertained and counting the days until APC makes another run 'round North America.