Throughout history, there have been certain tours that invariably left a mark on not only the attendees, but also pop culture at large.
As far as Los Angeles goes (being something of a music mecca), you can point to events like Depeche Mode’s Music For The Masses Tour stop at The Rose Bowl in 1988 or The Cure’s night at Dodger Stadium on The Prayer Tour. Last night, A Perfect Circle at The Hollywood Bowl carried the same amount of significance.
Without a new album since 2004’s Emotive (yet), six years since a proper tour, no current track on the radio, and minus an onslaught of the retrospective articles that Radiohead get every odd-year anniversary, the band—Maynard James Keenan [vocals], Billy Howerdel [guitar], James Iha [guitar, keyboards, dance steps], Matt McJunkins [bass], and Jeff Friedl [drums]—packed one of Los Angeles’s most hallowed and historic venues. That’s really impressive. There’s a simple explanation as to why. A Perfect Circle’s three full-length albums are that good, and their live shows deliver on the records’ promises. In fact, this current tour represents the group at the peak of its passion, power, and prowess.
The first time I saw A Perfect Circle was during The Fragility Tour in 2000 with Nine Inch Nails at the Worcester Centrum. A year later, I caught them on a college tour at the Gosman Center—a large gym—at Brandeis University. Both had their merits, but the second ranks among the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because I nearly had a year to live with their debut Mer De Noms, or I’d finally grasped an album’s ability to inspire at 16…Regardless, the Bowl gig caused the same effect 16 years later. I think I appreciate it even more though.
Kicking things off, the band members’ shadows rose across a giant white curtain as they flawlessly delivered Thirteenth Step opener “The Package.” Just as Howerdel’s bludgeoning riff fireworks popped off, the curtain dropped to unveil an entrancing stage setup. Friedl and McJunkins locked into a bulletproof groove that never waivered once throughout the evening, cementing their status as one of rock’s prime rhythm sections as Iha deepened the sonic palette with flourishes of key strokes and guitar fuzz.
Sporting a shadowy smile, Keenan went on to proclaim the audience “so fucking electric” before adding, “I may need to apologize because it’s totally possible Hollywood does not suck. That was an Irish compliment fuck heads. No earthquakes tonight.”
The set seamlessly wove together a hypnotic take on John Lennon’s “Imagine” off Emotive with Mer de Noms favorites like the divine “The Hollow,” haunting “Rose,” and a towering highlight in the maddeningly gorgeous “Orestes.” Maynard dubbed the jaunt our “get to know ya tour,” but from the widespread singing in the crowd, no introductions were necessary. Eliciting a rowdy cheer, he dedicated “Thomas” to “my Tool brothers.”
The chemistry between the frontman and Howerdel proved undeniable during the seductive and scorching “Magdalena” and especially with the industrial punch of “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums.” Their interplay on the cinematic “Vanishing” and “By and Down” reached Page/Plant levels, no joke—we may not even need the rumored Led Zeppelin Desert Trip reunion.
Just before launching into “Thinking of You,” Keenan rightfully decried the lack of rebels in rock music—seriously there’s nothing safer these days than most of what passes for indie or alternative and headlines Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo! It’s Whole Foods rock fueled by kale and organic beer, but I digress.
He declared, “We’re supposed to be talking about the things you’re not supposed to talk about. I think I have a solution.”
The crowd quieted as he left off with, “We need more anal sex in rock songs.“
His sense of humor remains almost as potent as his vocal delivery, which really soared on two show-stopping new cuts “Hourglass” and “Feathers.” The former churned from a robotic intro into a cybernetic shoegaze kaleidoscope punctuated by a giant hook. The latter offered a more intimate and subdued, yet equally resonant sonic pastiche to ponder.
Speaking of pondering, A Perfect Circle are the kind of act that should be headlining the States’ biggest festival Coachella. It would be a hometown show as they’re technically a California band. They can draw like crazy, as evidenced by last night. It’s not just another safe choice. Why not take a risk and really bring the live back to mainstream festivals?
Pop superstars and reunions are great, but as a presumable tastemaker, Coachella should be an outlier. Seeing these guys on that stage could very well ignite another generation to make badass music with real instruments. To put it in simplest terms and outline the significance further, one of the month’s “biggest” events, the MTV Movie & TV Awards, was happening virtually down the street, but the largest venue in Hollywood hosted a full house for A Perfect Circle. It’s just a thought.
If it doesn’t happen, here’s to hoping the group’s fourth full-length, whenever it does drop, is a major success and they can charge a boatload of money for those kinds of historic even bigger gigs…
Either way, we’ll always have the Hollywood Bowl.