Review: A Perfect Circle at Red Rocks, 8/2/11

Categories: Last Night

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Aaron Thackeray
This is more of Maynard James Keenan than we saw last night at Red Rocks
A PERFECT CIRCLE at RED ROCKS | 8/2/11
It seems more than a bit paradoxical that A Perfect Circle's frontman prefers to perform in background. With Tool, his primary band, and with A Perfect Circle, Maynard James Keenan is an enormous presence. His voice is the driving force of both acts. And yet live, he chooses to blend unassumingly into the shadows on platform by himself off to the side, shrouded in darkness.

And while this sort of seemingly subversive tactic would clearly detract from just about any other artist's performance, with Keenan, who happens to possess one of the most captivating voices in all of rock, it actually enhances the experience of seeing him live, allowing you -- nay, forcing you -- to focus almost entirely on the imposing power of his vocals.

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Aaron Thackeray
Maynard James Keenan. More photos of A Perfect Circle at Red Rocks.

With A Perfect a Circle, Keenan is obviously far less dynamic than he is with Tool. Just the same, he's no less affecting. With exception of certain passages on songs like "Hollow" and "Outsider," in which he opened up and explored the higher reaches of his register, he mostly crooned in a vigorous midrange as the band made its way through a set that consisted of songs from all three releases, including a choice selection of covers from eMOTIVe.

Some takes fared far better than others. John Lennon's "Imagine," a song that's famous for being hopeful and empowering, was rendered positively dirge-like and dour, while "What's Going On" was unforgivably neutered by a droney minor key arrangement that sucked all of the soul out of the original. Despite this, Keenan somehow managed to tap into the exasperation of the tune, infusing it with an underlying tension and disquieted desparation that added an unexpected depth to the Marvin Gaye classic.

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Aaron Thackeray
Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle. More photos of A Perfect Circle at Red Rocks.

Although Keenan's vocals served as the undeniable centerpiece of the songs, the singer was accompanied by a band of notably accomplished musicians, particularly guitarist Billy Howerdel. In addition to showcasing some fine fretwork throughout the set, the guitarist - who could get work as a stunt double for Billy Corgan if ever there was a need -- tickled the ivories of a toy piano on "Annihilation," which opened the show, and later expertly added eerie, disembodied, falsetto harmonies on songs like "When the Levee Breaks" and expertly channeled Keenan as he sang lead on "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" The band's drummer (Jeff Friedl?) turned in an equally impressive standout performance.

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Aaron Thackeray
Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle. More photos of A Perfect Circle at Red Rocks.

The staging wasn't very elaborate. Rolls of chainmail-like fencing, resembling an industrial grade mosquito netting, were draped from three sides of the stage and served as the backdrop in which APC's logo was affixed to. The unrelenting rain pitched in to provide another unexpected visual element that perfectly suited the downcast nature of A Perfect Circle's music.

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Aaron Thackeray

While standing in the rain for extended periods of time is normally wearisome and tedious on every front, on this evening, what would've otherwise been considered a dreary midsummer night, the rain felt oddly cleansing. Not only did it provide a welcome repreive from the stifiling heat we've been experiencing recently, but the solid sheets of rain added the ideal shading to songs, particularly when illuminated. Ironically, as soon as the band trotted out "When the Levee Breaks," with Keenan singing the lines "if it keeps on raining, the levee is going to break," the rain slowed to a mist.

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Aaron Thackeray
Red Bacteria Vacuum. More photos of Red Bacteria Vacuum at Red Rocks.

It yet another incongruent snapshot from a night in which incongruity seemed to be the theme. Before taking the stage, after a lively and entertaining set from Red Bacteria Vacuum, a Japanese pop-punk trio, a selection of showtunes from the Sound of Music played over the speakers -- not exactly the type of music you'd expect to hear in before a band like A Perfect Circle. Turned out to be a perfectly fitting palate cleanser.


CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

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Aaron Thackeray
Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. More photos of A Perfect Circle fans last night.

Personal Bias: Marvin Gaye is like god to me. His songs are sacred and should not be messed with. By anybody. Ever.
By the Way: Typing into my phone during the set attracted the attention of security, who approached me and said, "You know about no pictures, right?" Also, there was no video elements whatsoever. The screen to the right of the stage was dark the entire set.
Random Detail: Walked into the venue with Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips and some of his crew.



Location Info

Venue

Map

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General

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7 comments
Matt
Matt

I counted 7 songs from Emotive, which was WAY too many. Every song they played sounded good, but I can't imagine anyone wanted to hear that much material from Emotive. While it was a great show and the venue is amazing (first time there, drove from KC to see this show) it could've been so much better with a different setlist.

happy fella
happy fella

This review is retarded. You are a terrible music journalist and you should do homework before opening your mouth. This band has been around since 1999 and you speak as if no one's heard of the band and never heard the songs. Maynard in the dark by himself. No way! Maynard isn't the band. He's in the band. I vote for you to be fired from your job and burned. Thanks for sucking.

Dave74
Dave74

I don't know what I think about it yet.  Overall they were great, musically sound and impressive.  I just am not a fan of eMotive, aside from Passive and Counting Bodies Like Sheep...

Hearing them play the other tunes from eMotive was tedious and dare I say boring.  And that's not a slight on they're performance as musicians.  They were sonically very impressive, I just have no interest in hearing them interpret "People are People" and the like.  When that cd came out I honestly chalked it up to 'ok we need to fulfill our contract with something so lets do some covers.  Kind of a 'throw-away' album, so to speak.  So to see them live, finally, and have it be so dominated by that album was just kind of disappointing.

As far as Maynard is concerned I was kind of annoyed with how hard to see he was.  I understand he doesn't want to distract from the band but he is a part of the band.  I am there to see them perform, all of them.  With Tool shows he is not lit with a spot but he is backlight because of all the visuals.  So you can still watch him, as a silouette.  With last night's show he was just non-existent.  And after awhile the whole "not wanting attention" thing starts to look like a way to get more attention. And before anyone chimes in with the whole 'oh, you should be there for the music not to watch maynard' thing, I understand that and agree with that....but so why is it cool for me to stare down Billy Howerdel all night but if I want to watch maynard I've got issues? lol

Anyway, typically im a Maynard apologist to an extent so I feel odd criticizing but got to be honest.  Seen Tool many times and have NEVER left disappointed but I gotta admit last night was a let down.

Steve
Steve

 Overall a good show, but I was disappointed. Their touring drummers style was not at all a good fit for APC. Seemed he wanted to beat the drums as hard as he could. Was there a reason his toms were turned up louder than the other instruments? I was impressed with Billy Howerdel, but he is no Adam Jones. I don't know what it is about Iha, but he makes playing guitar look so hard.  Maynard was awesome as usual and I in no way feel I didn't get my moneys worth. If I had one request of APC it would be to stop playing those God forsaken mixes. If I wanted to go to a Puscifer show I would go see them.  

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

I'd say Tool's a completely different animal and a vastly superior one at that. APC showcases only one layer of Maynard's multiple dimensions. Knowing that in advance, I think expectations become notably lower -- mine were anyway. So I didn't go to the show really expecting to see prodigious playing on par with Danny Carey or Adam Jones. Just the same, I thought Howerdel and the drummer both displayed some fine musicianship. By God forsaken mixes, I'm assuming you're referring to the covers? If so, yeah, I could've done without 'em. 

Andy Miller
Andy Miller

I cried when they played "When the Levee Breaks" in the rain. That concert was the most amazing experience I've had in my entire life, hands down.

Dave74
Dave74

Wow, you need to get out more if that was the most amazing experience of your life.

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