Since 1999, A Perfect Circle have become giants in the music industry thanks to three very successful studio releases – ‘Mer De Noms’ (2000), ‘Thirteenth Step’ (2003), ‘Emotive’ (2004). They’ve acquired one of the most loyal fan bases, as well as selling out countless arenas and headlining some of the biggest music festivals in the world. The band’s current lineup consists of vocalist Maynard James Keenan (Tool, Puscifer), guitarist Billy Howerdel (Ashes Divide), rhythm guitarist/keyboardist James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), drummer Jeff Friedl (The Beta Machine, Puscifer), and bassist Matt McJunkin (The Beta Machine, Puscifer), all of which bring exactly what A Perfect Circle’s sound calls for musically. A Perfect Circle has recently announced signing with a new label, BMG Rights Management, and began touring with supporting act The Beta Machine in mid-2017, playing new material from their newly-announced upcoming fourth studio album. In the midst of their ongoing tour, the band made a stop in Knoxville, TN on October 30th, 2017 at the Thompson-Boling Arena and I was there.
Upon entering the building, there were signs plastered everywhere stating there were to be no pictures, video, or audio recordings to be taken. Since I’d seen these types of flyers at just about every show I’d been to, I didn’t think too much of it at first – that is, until later that night when concertgoers were being escorted out of the building for doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the two people who were allowed to have a camera. The security at the event informed me that the band had implemented this rule and asked that it be strictly enforced, and strictly enforced it was. You can read an article that covers this at a show in Pennsylvania, just days after the show I attended, HERE (It’s pretty similar to my experience).
The night’s events began with the entrancing, digital sound of The Beta Machine. The stage setup was minimal, just four large photography lights, since they didn’t need anything but the music to blow the crowd away. This was my first time ever hearing the band, and I was a little unsure at first. It wasn’t until the drive home when I got acquainted with The Beta Machine’s music and was really interested in the direction they take their songs. Although I wasn’t completely won-over at the time of seeing their set, I can’t say that I wasn’t completely intrigued. The Beta Machine delivered with such energy and passion as they introduced themselves to the crowd with songs like “Again and Again”, “The End”, and “Pictures”. With drummer Jeff Friedl and bassist Matt McJunkin, both of A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Perez providing the rhythm section for vocalist Claire Acey to blanket with her soft, yet powerful voice, The Beta Machine gave a quality performance that made sure Knoxville knew their name before they left.
With a short intermission, myself and the rest of those in attendance were anxiously waiting the show we’ve all looked forward to for a while. The lights darkened, and a white curtain acted as a partition from the crowd and the stage, onto which illuminated a glowing blue A Perfect Circle logo. The first notes of “The Package” quickly filled the arena as the crowd erupted into a roar as silhouettes of the band were projected onto the curtain that still hung in front of the stage when Maynard’s voice let out the first lines of the song, “Clever got me this far/Then tricky got me in/Eye on what I’m after/I don’t need another friend”. Once the song kicked in with full velocity, the curtain dropped and revealed the band in the flesh. The stage had long, thin mesh drapes hanging from the rafters that kind of resembled trees – being it was the day before Halloween, it seemed fitting to watch A Perfect Circle in a forest.
Upon finishing their opening song, the band wasted no time storming into the first snare hits of “The Hollow” which was followed up by “The Noose”. At this point, the decision for these three huge songs to be the openers of the set seemed like they were giving away too much too early, but I couldn’t help but think, “If the band is opening with these songs, the rest of the set is going to be unbelievable!”, and it turns out, I was right. Each song was accompanied by perfectly timed light changes that synced with the video screens that surrounded the base of each band member’s riser and there was no shortage of hits as the band followed up “The Noose” with “Weak and Powerless”, “Rose”, and “Imagine” (in that order) before treating the crowd to the first of four songs from the new album they would play that night, “By and Down”. A Perfect Circle also played two songs, making their tour debut, “Blue” and “Orestes” but not before jamming “Thomas”, “Vanishing” and Depeche Mode’s “People are People”.
Giving a contrasting low to the highs of the show so far, we were privileged with “A Stranger” and picked right back up with the remixed version of “3 Libras” from 2004’s ‘Emotive’. Maynard addressed some “rumors” among fans, with “There have been a lot of rumors – rumors saying ‘there’s a date, there’s a date’. There is no date until I say there is a date. With that being said, in 2018, there will be a new A Perfect Circle album” and the crowd erupted. Was he solely speaking in terms of A Perfect Circle, or was this his way at hinting at progress on the new Tool album everyone has been pawing after? I’m sure there’s no correct answer for that question. But never fear, Tool fans, at least you got a little bit of good news with the new APC album and you can expect it to drop sometime early 2018.
A Perfect Circle then followed up with the second song that night from the new album, “Hourglass”, which in my opinion could either make it onto an APC album or a Puscifer album as well. The band took this song in a somewhat different direction than previous releases, but it still is no less of a masterpiece. It contains more of a processed, digital sound but still maintains the APC feel. The band finished up the new jam and blew through “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums” before playing the newest single from the upcoming album, “The Doomed”. This song, for those who haven’t heard it, is A Perfect Circle to its core. It maintains a steady groove that builds toward the end of the song with periods of slower rhythm with Maynard’s soulful and precise tone steering the ship. Upon completion of “The Doomed”, Maynard took the time to introduce the band followed by a short Halloween story courtesy of James Iha – “…and it comes right up to you, so close, bone-chilling, disgusting….it’s The Outsider!” and Billy Howerdel strikes the first notes of the hit song of the same name as Maynard gives a “Thank you, see you again soon,” and soon after delivers the first lines of the song with grace and clarity and continues to do so throughout the song’s duration. The band finished the night with the fourth song from the new album, “Feathers”. I remember seeing the guy in the seat in front of me sing every lyric to every song all night, even the new ones, but when this song hit, his wife looked at him and said, “What’s this?” and he had a confused look and said, “I don’t know. It’s new.” It was one of those ‘you had to be there’ things, but it was pretty funny. Anyway, as the final song came to a close, the band walked to the front of the stage to wave and thank the crowd, and unexpectedly, Maynard joined them. It was definitely something that I did not see coming, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one since he’s always had the ‘mysterious’, reclusive persona. The band exited the stage ending a night that one can hardly describe. As detailed as I have or have not been, there’s no amount of description that can put you in that seat. Get out to an APC show as soon as you can, and you won’t be disappointed.