Review – A Perfect Circle @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (4/13/17)

A Perfect Circle's Billy Howerdel (Photo: Kevin Keating)
It’s been a busy few years for Maynard James Keenan, the typically reclusive, lead vocalist of A Perfect Circle, the band who played to a sold out Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night in San Francisco. This was at least the 5th time MJK’s hit SF over the past 18 months. Most recently, he was on a book tour promoting his authorized biography A Perfect Union of Contrary Things (Amazon), a winemaker’s dinner at The Barrel Room promoting his Caduceus Cellars wines, a concert with his original band Tool who went out on a quick month-long US tour, and another separate show from his other band, Puscifer. Not to mention that we’ll see MJK return to the South Bay in two months for *another* Tool concert on June 21st at the SAP Center, this time supporting a rumored new album perhaps?
A Perfect Circle's James Iha (Photo: Kevin Keating)

Although it’s easy to point to MJK as the ringleader of these 3 bands, A Perfect Circle is the brainchild of former Tool guitar tech, Billy Howerdel. And for the live incarnation of the band, Billy’s assembled former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, James Iha, along with Matt McJunkins (bass) & Jeff Friedl (drums), neither of which are strangers to MJK as they’re also currently part of Puscifer.
A Perfect Circle's Billy Howerdel (Photo: Kevin Keating)

For me, what stood out last night was thinking about how radically different each performance across each of MJK's 3 related bands has tended to be. Sure, MJK’s the connective tissue across each band, but the stage shows from Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle are entirely different. Let’s talk about Puscifer first. I have the hardest time describing Puscifer’s sound, but their live show is as theatrical as it can get. Whether they’re touring with a country-western theme, or as they did on their most recent tour, complete with a mock wrestling ring in the middle of the stage with live-action Lucha Libre performances throughout the concert, Puscifer is as much performance art as it is about the music. With respect to Tool, ever since their founding in 1990, they’ve always tried to blend intense visuals with their intense ‘prog-metal’ sound. Whether they’re creating album art, music videos, or their live performance, the visuals are as much a part of their music as the actual music itself. Which leads me to A Perfect Circle… Don’t get me wrong, APC’s light show last night was beautiful -- the band was bathed in combinations of blue, purple and white light for most of the night. But the projected visuals, took a backseat to the music. A Perfect Circle performance is about the music... Not the theatrics... And not the visuals. Simply, the music. At least that’s what I took away from last night’s show. They played the fan favorites across their catalog, and even closed the show with a yet to be released track supposedly called "Feathers." But the music was at the center of the performance last night.
A Perfect Circle's Billy Howerdel (Photo: Kevin Keating)
As usual, MJK sang from the rear of the stage, and last night, instead of an elaborate costume, he was shielded by thick fog which made him nearly invisible throughout the night… Again, keeping the focus on the music and not the most well-known figure in the band.
A Perfect Circle's Maynard James Keenan (Photo: Kevin Keating)
From my recollection, Keenan only spoke to the crowd 3 times over the 90+ minute show, and encouraged the crowd to put their phones away and be present for the performance. He even went so far as to change the end of the first verse of “Thinking of You” to “…sleepless, unable to focus on anything but your iPhone.”
A Perfect Circle's James Iha (Photo: Kevin Keating)

The music was powerful, not in a ‘Tool’ bombastic way, but in an emotive experiential way. There weren’t the mosh pits you’d find at a Tool show. The crowd was transfixed by the music. And I can only assume that’s exactly what Billy and Maynard intended. Here's a glimpse of what to expect that I found on YouTube shot from the upper deck of the Bill Graham:

With any luck, we may hear new music from not only Tool this year, but a new album from A Perfect Circle as well. And if you’re reading this from outside the SF Bay Area, be sure to check APC’s tour schedule here and don’t miss this show if they come to your town!
A Perfect Circle Setlist Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, USA, Spring 2017

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