A Perfect Circle
Smart Financial Centre
April 27, 2017
It has been more than a decade since A Perfect Circle released a proper studio album. And even then, the band’s last full-length record featured only two original tracks.
Released at the height of the Iraq War, 2004’s Emotive saw the supergroup reimagining a collection of antiwar songs amid rising tensions in the U.S. and abroad. Following its release, APC went radio-silent.
Guitarist Billy Howerdel put out a solo album under the moniker Ashes Divide, while vocalist Maynard James Keenan resumed his work with Tool. The eccentric singer/songwriter also opened a winery in Arizona while exercising his creativity through Puscifer, his other side project.
Years went by, and many fans resigned themselves to the likelihood that APC was no more, an artistic pursuit that had run its course. The band’s demise seemed all but certain given Keenan's other commitments.
But last November, the unthinkable happened: Howerdel announced a reunion. Tour dates were set, and tickets sold fast. Thursday night's show at Smart Financial Centre sold out quickly, along with dozens of other dates across the nation.
Houston fans flocked to Sugar Land for an overdue performance, bringing with them the very angst and energy that APC had tapped into all those years ago. Much to the chagrin of the on-site staff, the crowd drank heavily, smoked weed inside, tossed empties into the air and even moshed.
To the venue's credit, an overall calm was maintained for the duration of the show, but it was likely the most difficult crowd to visit the facility since it opened in January of this year.
The show began with the band behind a mesh curtain. As Keenan crooned to the crowd, regaling them with the tales of a drug fiend with his eye on the prize, lights at the back of the stage illuminated the group's shadows overhead.
When the curtain finally dropped four minutes into the song, the crowd's roar was so deafening it almost drowned out the band.
Following "The Package," APC ran through another four original cuts before launching into a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine." Originally an uplifting track, Keenan's reinterpretation has darker undertones.
Given the recent regime change, the protest songs felt especially fitting. Even if Depeche Mode's "People Are People" is more than 30 years old, its theme remains as true as ever.
Keenan sang of addiction, self-righteousness, unrequited love and strippers as Howerdel and crew drew the crowd into a frenzy with their heavy instrumentation.
Despite an extended set, the band's two best-known songs — "Judith" and "The Outsider" — were notably absent from the Thursday night's show. Even so, it felt like a complete performance.
APC debuted two unreleased tracks, one of which sounded like an art rock ballad à la "By and Down," while the other boasted a more modern sound, with heavy electronic and synth undertones.
During "Thinking of You," which simultaneously bemoans and celebrates the act of masturbation, Keenan brought two
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Keenan later referred to himself as a merchant of emotion and refused to apologize for his artistry. He called himself "a grumpy fuck" and lamented the current state of rock music. That lamentation, he said, was one of the reasons he and Howerdel decided to get the band back together.
Given how much time has passed between albums, one might think that APC's star had faded. But Keenan has kept busy, and his fan base has remained loyal. In 20 years, when the front man is 73, he'll still be onstage singing about pleasuring himself as sixtysomethings toss their half-empty beers overhead.
And we'll be right there with them.
Weak And Powerless
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
By And Down
People Are People (Depeche Mode cover)
Thinking Of You
Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums
3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)