A Perfect Circle w/ The Beta Machine
KeyArena, Seattle, WA
It had been seven years since they reunited and a mere thirteen since the release of their last studio album,but that certainly didn’t stop A Perfect Circle from delivering a powerful live performance to a packed KeyArena. Winding VIP merch lines passed out signature tote bags and souvenir posters to longtime fans bearing the necessary laminates. Plenty of Tool t-shirts, leather jackets, and long hair roamed the aisles. Igniting some serious feels in the dedicated, APC also announced that they do indeed have a new album on the way.
The show opened with a stellar set from The Beta Machine featuring APC bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl, both of whom are also a part of Maynard James Keenan’s other project, Puscifer as well as Billy Howerdel’s Ashes Divide. Out supporting the release of their debut EP All This Time, the four-piece stood against a dramatic backdrop of flashing photo reflectors and heavy fog. Their relatively short set showcased strong beats—nearly danceable—and dark electro-rock vibes.
McJunkins and Claire Acey traded vocal duties, often finding strong harmonies to connect on, while glitchy keyboards and bass-heavy tracks ignited their quirky dance moves. While the crowd hadn’t quite filled in yet, by the time they hit their last track, McJunkins asked everyone to stand up for the eerie final song and most happily obliged, filling the room with enthusiasm.
Between sets, repeated visual and loudspeaker announcements of APC’s strict no-photo policy bombarded the crowd while a billowing white curtain covered the stage. Eastern-influenced instrumentals rang through the arena as the band was silhouetted against the curtain, and “The Package” introduced them to the anticipatory crowd before the curtain finally dropped, massive applause erupting through the room.
The epic stage was draped with fabric strips echoing the shapes of stalactites, and heavy fog shrouded the room, though the lighting design was on point. The opening song showed off stellar guitar solos as the lights faded to black, only a hint of what was to come throughout the band’s nearly two-hour set. Keenan, guitarist James Iha, and Friedl each stood atop their own large round platform toward the rear of the stage while McJunkins and lead guitarist Billy Howerdel paced the front of the stage, acting almost like the face of the band, especially since Keenan basically pulled his standard invisibility tricks, shrouded in the dark.
By the third track, Keenan’s banter veered toward the rainy Seattle weather, and he thanked everyone for coming out before they dove into “Weak and Powerless.” Their setlist didn’t skimp on fan favorites, leaning heavily on tracks from 2003’s Thirteenth Step, but they also included their cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Brinsley Schwarz’s “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” both relevant nods to the current social state of the nation. “Talk to each other,” Keenan said, “Listen to each other. If you wanna still punch each other in the face, well, that’s cool. Just talk to each other.”
“By and Down,” off their greatest hits album, Three Sixty, had Keenan rocking out to himself near the back of his podium, while Howerdel wailed a guitar solo intro to “Blue” that had the crowd roaring. They did the remixed version of “3 Libras,” arguably their biggest hit, before making the announcement that the crowd could expect a new album from APC, come 2018. A song noticeably absent—and perhaps never played—was “Judith.” Some speculate the song will likely never get heard live as it was an angry song about Keenan’s mother (her religious beliefs) and now that she’s passed, probably too emotional to sing.
“Hourglass,” one of their latest tracks, got a bit more electronic, while AC/DC cover “Dog Eat Dog” was preceded by Iha’s soliloquy on woolly mammoths. Closer “Passive” demolished the night before the band—minus Keenan—came to the front to toss guitar picks and drumsticks the fans in appreciation. Howerdel even got down on his knees, thanking the crowd for coming out. If one thing’s for certain, despite Keenan proving his vocal abilities and the band showing off the musicianship that their fans stick around for, it’s that plenty of folks are still willing to throw their lighters in the air for the music they love.
Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini
A Perfect Circle and The Beta Machine