After a 6-year hiatus, alt-goth super group A Perfect Circle have returned and have been performing across the country for just under a year now. While their first shows back featured 3-night-stands in each venue, allowing them to perform each of their 3 studio albums straight through one time in each city, the band’s performance at The Fox Theater in Detroit was a blend of songs from each album, leaning heavily on their most recent, 2004’s eMOTIVe.
The vibe in the room was somewhere between reverence and the excitement that comes from participating in a rock show performance. After a short opening set by Japan’s Red Bacteria Vacuum, the crowd began to settle in for the headliners. While the casual fan may have been disappointed by the lack of songs from A Perfect Circle’s 2000 debut, Mer de Noms, it is worth noting that the abundance of re-arranged protest songs from 2004 worked well, not just because of the performance and the excellent lighting throughout the night, but because many of the themes and topics contained within the song lyrics are still ongoing issues and problems today. Covers from the likes of John Lennon, Elvis Costello, Black Flag, Depeche Mode and Joni Mitchell both acted as a thematic connection throughout the set, but also a reminder of how far we haven’t come in the last 8-10 years. Those who feel a rock concert (or song) is not the place for political or social commentary would do well to find another band to listen to and another concert to attend.
The most appropriate of these cover songs, being that the show was performed at the majestic and historic Fox Theater in Detroit, was Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On”, delivered with both a sense of urgency and of disappointment by singer Maynard James Keenan and guitarist/vocalist Billy Howerdel. Aside from the literal message of the lyrics, it was a moment in the show that connected this varied cast of players to the city of Detroit and the colorful history that belongs to the music of Motown. While some concert-goers stepped back to get another drink during many of the cover songs, this writer feels these moments were as powerful if not more so than the performances of original material.
Fans of this band know there has been a rotating cast of band members over the years, and this night was no different. After the departure of 2 bassists, and the temporary unavailability of drummer Josh Freese (as he also drums for both Devo and Weezer), Friday’s performance featured 2 members of Ashes Divide (guitarist Howerdel’s side project), filling in. While all of these players are certainly very talented and accomplished musicians, changing the personnel will always result in a different sound and performance. The same show performed by the original line-up or the group that recorded and toured for the second and third albums, would have been different and may have packed a bit more of a punch, though it can be debated either way.
Overall, the band’s performance was well crafted and well executed, but perhaps a bit shorter than one might expect after a 6 year break, clocking in at only 88 minutes (with no encore break). The sound in the theater was very well mixed and the lighting added a great visual support to the variety of emotional moments contained in these songs. Festival-goers who are planning to see APC later this summer may enjoy one or two additional hit singles in place of 4 or 5 of the cover songs, but the mood conveyed in Friday’s performance suited the songs very well and left many in the audience excited about the possible upcoming new songs the band is currently preparing. Their last track was one of these new songs, and the band left the audience to emerge into the Detroit night digesting the possibilities of what may come next…
A Perfect Circle’s set list
Imagine (John Lennon)
Weak and Powerless
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
People are People (Depeche Mode)
Peace, Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello)
When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy/Led Zeppelin)
3 Libras (all main courses mix)
Gimme Gimme Gimme (Black Flag)
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
Fiddle and the Drum (Joni Mitchell)
By and Down