If you’ve ever had the tremendous honor of seeing A Perfect Circle in concert, then you know exactly where I’m going with this title. Last night was the experience of a lifetime, and I mean that in every sense of the expression. I feel the need to justify the bold confidence of a statement like that. After all, bands go on tour all the time. Any schmuck can get on to Ticketmaster and buy a seat in the cheapest row of their favorite band’s concert venue, and it will still be totally fucking awesome. Is it some rare life experience though? Well, sometimes. I’ll give you three reasons, starting with the most obvious.
The band itself is a paragon of musical excellence with a lineup more impressive than any singular band you can think of. The best way to describe it is a cornucopia of talent plucked like fruit from the trees of the world’s most beloved bands. Another way to describe it is “Tool but with more pizzazz,” although I’ve been repeatedly told this does not do A Perfect Circle any justice. So, besides the fact that their music should be used as a yardstick for evaluating the quality of future supergroups, why else is seeing A Perfect Circle live is such a delicious treat?
Despite the band’s wild success, its activity has been sporadic at best since its conception in 1999. Over the last 17 years (yes, it has been that long) they have released no more than three albums. All three are awesome. But that’s just it. There are only three. Think about how incredible it is that a band with only three albums under their belt manages to sell out every arena after going on tour for the first time in six years. We live in a time where a meme is considered washed-up when it appears on your Facebook news feed a week and a half after you saw it on Reddit.
Now, I know I’m cheating a little bit by claiming that A Perfect Circle has but a modest three-album career. If you add up the albums that every member of the group has worked on, the collective number would beat some of the world’s longest-standing stars by long shot. Maynard James Keenan alone had a hand in so many albums, it warranted a separate Wikipedia page. But there’s something about A Perfect Circle that is unique from each artist’s individual work. While most people associate A Perfect Circle closely with Tool (owing in part to the fact that they share a frontman), it’s nothing like Tool. Sure, the average listener will instantly recognize Maynard’s familiar and uniquely robust voice, but it sounds ever so slightly different from the voice he employs in most of Tool’s music. The distinction is eerie but truly magnificent. That same aesthetic applies to A Perfect Circle’s music when compared to any other generic rock music. You know what I mean by “generic.” The kind of thing that Pandora will play when you select the “Hard Rock” station. I imagine it will take an arduous amount of thumbs-up and thumbs-downing before Pandora plays even one song by A Perfect Circle on a standard rock station. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a healthy sequence of songs by Tool or even Nine Inch Nails and a few thumbs-up might kick you in the right direction. That’s what is so great about A Perfect Circle. It’s difficult to shoehorn their music into a genre because it seems to defy genre altogether, to the point where the band has a cult following. Diehard fans feel more strongly connected to this particular band’s music than the type of music it’s supposed to represent. This is where I offer you another justifying reason for this concert’s awesomeness.
A Perfect Circle is a thousand times better live than they are on recorded album. Put away your pitchforks before you claim that what I just said implies their recorded music is bad. It’s not. I’d let it go without saying, but this is the internet so I’ll spell it out: A Perfect Circle makes outstanding music that opens a door into my subconscious, invites itself in, and serenades my psyche with the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard come through my otherwise unremarkable phone speaker. It rattles my very soul. We good now? Terrific. Now let me tell you about how much more awesome they are in concert.
Let me preface this by saying that not all bands are good live. Some vocal talent does not easily translate from a padded room and high-quality recording equipment to a microphone blaring across a screaming audience. It comes out sounding echoey, harsh, and all-around terrible; it’s no fault of their own. Live singing is not for everyone. Other bands are just not particularly exciting in concert. They don’t do much on stage short of exist. So, you get the awesome live music, you get the proximity, but the band doesn’t do much to convince you that you wouldn’t have been better off listening to the same music somewhere else. Other bands are too exciting in concert. Case in point, a mosher suffers the pain of literal death for attending a Smashing Pumpkins concert without remembering to wear his riot police uniform.
A Perfect Circle is better than many other bands because it is as much a visual experience as it is an auditory one. And it’s not because Maynard jumps around on stage in punk rock manner, dives into the audience, or leads a grand choreography. There are no tesla coils or flamethrowers. No elaborate masks. It’s really quite the opposite. The band, especially Maynard, lingers mostly in the shadows. Maynard’s disembodied voice drifts out from somewhere behind the heavy fog. It’s surreal and it instantly captivates you. When the music picks up, your only job is to submit yourself to the music and bear witness to the festival of light arrays and kaleidoscopic imagery that suddenly rolls across the elaborately assembled stage and dances the dance of its people. Not unlike Tool, A Perfect Circle commit themselves to pairing their music with an equivalent visual experience you won’t easily forget. It’s so visually engaging, you almost forget where you are until some human turd decides he needs a twentieth overpriced beer, so he gets up and stands in the middle of the stairs with his flowerpot of a girlfriend and chooses that moment to discuss the future of the critically endangered black-footed ferret or whatever the fuck it is they decided to discuss right then and there while blocking your entire row’s view of the stage. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a really stunning show.
Speaking of bands that are better live than they are on a recording, let’s talk about who opened for A Perfect Circle. If you are already familiar with a duo known only as Prayers, then this may not come as a shock to you. The rest you, gentle readers, are about to learn some brand spanking new information. Prayers is a Chicano electric rock duo that happens to be the first group to identify as Cholo goth. Didn’t know you could string all those words together to form a coherent genre? Me either, but I fucking love it. Listen, Prayers is a weird group. They’re a little intense. The lead singer shouts pretty much all the lyrics right at you and the music is performed on a single synthesizer. I can’t explain why, but I was instantly taken by their eccentricity. If you’re feeling brave, look them up on Spotify. It’s worth a listen. If you don’t like it, which it won’t come as a shock to me if you don’t, try to keep an open mind anyway. Picture laser lights and inverted crosses. Go see them live if you get the chance, even as an opening band. I really enjoyed the music in that environment and if you’re anything like me (you’re probably nothing like me) then you may just be pleasantly surprised.
Pro tip: Pandora may not be the best medium to explore Prayers. The genre is too obscure and the algorithm will desperately throw songs at the proverbial wall until something sticks. Here’s an example of what it did to me in the first five songs:
Prayers – Ready To Bleed >> The Cure – Play For Today >> Die Antwoord – Strunk >> Prayers – Tomorrows Unknown >> Depeche Mode – Precious
Start a Prayers station on Pandora. What could go wrong?