A Perfect Performance
When Prog Rock and Truck-Stop Rock Collide
A Perfect Circle
Pigmy Love Circus
Berklee Performance Center
Aug. 3, 2003
I have never worn earplugs to a rock concert before. The entire point is to go to a show and get your ears blasted and screw up all your listening skills for the next day or so. Well, as much of a trendsetter I might be, right before I departed for the show I grabbed a pair of earplugs. I decided that after going to so many shows and playing a lot of electric guitar, I should give my ears a break.
It turns out that it was one of the wisest decisions of my entire life (counterbalancing the decision to ditch state school). I arrived at my seat and realized that it was one of the best seats in the entire house. The only thing other than the security guard that prevented me from scampering onto the stage and giving Maynard a big kiss was the bass amp. I could kick the damn thing if I wanted to, but it was no use as it was totally wreaking havoc on me. If it weren’t for those earplugs, I’d be hearing the seashore for the rest of my life.
First up to bat was, much to my surprise, Pigmy Love Circus. You might think that they are insignificant, but PLC has none other than the great Danny Carey on the drums, the Tool-mate of Maynard. Don’t expect them to be deep and introspective, though. They’ve got good old sludgy rock songs about criminals, farmers fighting to keep their land from the government, and swamp monsters. Singer Mike Savage helped complete the image by wearing a beret, an IRA t-shirt, and a camouflage kilt whose authenticity was confirmed when Savage twirled around and two female audience members erupted in laughter. PLC is one of those bands that you have to see live to fully appreciate; the performance amplifies the music. With the way these guys looked you’d expect them to be a band that performs at truck stops. They’re pure Americana.
After one of the quickest set changes in history, A Perfect Circle emerged bristling with their new weaponry. While original members guitarist Billy Howerdel, singer Maynard James Keenan, and drummer Josh Freese remain, two new members have been inducted: one Jeordie White, formerly known as Twiggy Ramirez and formerly the bassist for Marilyn Manson; and one James Iha, former guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins. APC is now a full-fledged super group with a sound to be reckoned with.
Playing songs from both their debut and upcoming albums, APC put on a spectacular show, performing their new short but sweet single “Weak and Powerless,” their beautiful smash hit “3 Libras,” and aggressive renditions of “Judith” and “Magdalena.” For the first two songs Maynard hid behind a curtain, his shadow pulsating with the music and the lights, and his powerful voice came through clearly, threatening to overpower all the instruments. James did well as the rhythm guitarist, adding some nifty effects, and he even broke standards by occasionally using his fingers to play, a rare event in rock music. These and Billy’s commanding leads, Josh’s solid drumming -- especially for a former punk rocker! -- and Jeordie’s excellent display of technique all showed why APC is so unique: they are able to rip you apart at one moment and then immediately soothe you the next.
The show was rather special, as this was a big-name band performing in such an intimate setting. Although the Berklee Performance Center has about 1,200 seats, it was as if the band was playing for each person there. Surprisingly, the lights of the entire theater were turned on twice during the show and the audience could be seen raising their arms, shouting praises at the band, and swaying with the music. Between songs, with the theater pitch black, the band would start chit-chatting amongst themselves and tease the audience. Maynard even told a joke: “What did the three-legged dog say when he walked into the bar? ‘I’ve come here to find the man who shot my paw.’” Boos and cheers abounded. The audience could have lasted for at least another full set, but unfortunately no encore was performed.
With my excellent seat and the fantastic sound quality, light display, all-star cast and even better musicianship, A Perfect Circle and Pigmy Love Circus at the BPC was a show to remember.