Review - A Perfect Circle w/ The Beta Machine @ SJSU Event Center (4/18/18)

Kevin Keating
A Perfect Circle (Photo: Kevin Keating)
A Perfect Circle last hit the Bay Area when they played Sacramento’s annual Aftershock Festival in October and prior to that, it was a performance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last Spring that saw them visit San Francisco. Since then, the band has been working on a new album, Eat the Elephant, which is due for release tomorrow (buy it from iTunes here) and just kicked off a new tour to support the album at Coachella this past weekend.
Maynard James Keenan, Billy Howerdel, Jeff Friedl of A Perfect Circle (Photo: Kevin Keating)
The amalgamation of Maynard James Keenan (vocals), Billy Howerdel (guitar), Jeff Friedl (drums), Matt McJunkins (guitar) and their stand-in for James Iha, Greg Edwards (guitar/keyboards), nearly sold out the Event Center at San Jose State last night — an impressive feat given their new album’s not even out yet! But prior to APC taking the stage, Jeff & Matt, opened the show with their other band, The Beta Machine, where they were joined by the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Claire Acey and Nicolas Perez on guitar.
The Beta Machine (Photo: Kevin Keating)
The four-piece worked their way through All This Time (iTunes), an EP they released last Spring, and encouraged the audience to get out of their seats as they tried to warm up the crowd. It was a tough sell though, because The Beta Machine’s music is fairly subdued — don’t get me wrong, it’s great stuff, but not the high energy material that most in the audience were waiting for… rightly or wrongly! Although Claire took lead on vocal duties, Matt frequently duets on nearly every track, and the duo combine for a fragile juxtaposition against, at times, the harsh electronic synth samples and droning guitar as exemplified in their single, “The End”.

Not only did their live performance closely reflect the sound of their EP, but their stage set-up and light show was jaw-dropping for a show opener. Clearly, careful thought and consideration when into the layout and design of their set, as the band member configuration, props, and lighting all worked together to create an ethereal feel to what was normally a drab college event center. Be sure to give these guys a shot if you’re looking for something a bit left-of-center from mainstream rock. Those in attendance seemed to give the band the attention they deserved, as you should too.
Jeff Friedl of The Beta Machine & A Perfect Circle (Photo: Kevin Keating)
At 9pm, APC hit the stage and launched into two tracks from their new album, “Eat the Elephant” and “Disillusioned” before giving the audience something familiar with “Weak and Powerless”. Similar to the situation The Beta Machine had just been in, A Perfect Circle, as it turns out, was going to perform a ton of material that we in the audience weren’t necessarily familiar with. That tends to be a gamble for bigger bands when their fans usually just want to hear the hits. And in the case of A Perfect Circle, where I’d argue that the majority of their fans began with the prog-metal band, Tool, the slower artistic style of APC was already a departure from the heavier Tool repertoire, and so playing new non-metal material was definitely a risky move. That said, their corresponding light show was absolutely amazing. And the thing to know about Maynard James Keenan, is that he is the antithesis of a ‘front man’ across all the bands he performs (Tool, Puscifer, and APC.) God knows his vocals are a key component to the overall sound of each of those bands, but in every case, it’s the sum of the parts that sets each band apart from the wasteland of me-too alt-rock, prog-metal bands, and Maynard relishes in his ability to stay in the shadows to keep a modicum of anonymity and privacy — while giving the rest of the band an opportunity to shine. So as I expected, the normally bald Maynard, wore a long haired wig and remained in the shadows deep at the back of center stage throughout the night; which allowed Matt and band co-founder, Billy Howerdel, to take the spotlights as the band’s ‘front men.”
Maynard James Keenan of A Perfect Circle (Photo: Kevin Keating)
And I also have to give the band credit and huge kudos for their attempt to ban all cell phone cameras during the show. Taped throughout the arena on the back of nearly every other chair, was a sign warning that all photography and videos were strictly prohibited with the threat of ejection for anyone caught. I can’t tell you the last show I attended that didn’t feature a sea of brightly lit cell phone displays lurching skyward to record video of the show. I’d forgotten how distracting that can be, and last night, besides the immense light show on stage, there wasn’t a single cell phone that was lit up to distract my attention from the show onstage. It was amazing to be ‘present’ for the show without the ‘normal’ distractions of brightly lit cell phones everywhere!
But in terms of the actual music, the band didn’t sound as if they were shaking off any cobwebs, and the new music sounded fresh and relevant, especially their track “Disillusioned”, which rang (no pun intended) true to their ejection notice. Check it out below.

They played for a full 90-minutes without any breaks or encore, and nearly half of their set was from the new album. So this isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ tour, but what you can expect to see and hear is the combination of five extremely talented musicians who are intently focused on delivering music that deserves to be heard. The light show added to the ambiance of the show, but the music was what mattered last night.

Let’s hope they hit the Bay Area again later this year — maybe with a stop in San Francisco? And in the meantime, be sure to check out their tour schedule if you’re reading this from outside the Bay Area! Thanks for reading and be sure to follow us across our social feeds for more pictures, concert announcements and news here: A Perfect Circle Album on Facebook | The Beta Machine Album on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

A Perfect Circle Setlist San Jose State Event Center Arena, San Jose, CA, USA, Eat the Elephant North American Tour 2018

The Beta Machine Setlist San Jose State Event Center Arena, San Jose, CA, USA 2018

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