It’s been 14 years since A Perfect Circle has taken center stage in Birmingham, Alabama, but on the evening of May 22, 2018 at the BJCC Legacy Arena, they entered the stage to thunderous applause and left the audience to drool over the amazing experience they just witnessed.
We started our quest, battling the intense construction work, and the heavy afternoon traffic to finally arrive at the BJCC. Doors wouldn’t open till 7:00p.m., so we waited in a sea of eager metal heads, hippies with colored hair, young people, older people, veteran concert goers, and adorable concert virgins. No matter who they were, the atmosphere and vibe of the crowd was all the same. Everyone was excited. They were discussing what songs they were hoping to hear, reminiscing about the last time A Perfect Circle came to town, and taking pictures with their friends. You could hear them spending time catching up with old friends, bonding over T-shirts, discussing favorite albums and the music from Maynard James Keenan’s other projects, Tool and Puscifer. Bonds developing among fans is an amazing experience to watch unfold. Everyone is so welcoming and takes care of one another, friends, family, and strangers alike.
As we waited in line to get through the metal detectors, there was a sign staring back at us that read, “STROBE LIGHTS WILL BE USED IN THIS SHOW”. I hadn’t really seen a light show like that before, so that was something else to look forward to. But below that hung a sign that read, “NO PHOTOS OR VIDEOS, THIS ALSO INCLUDES PHOTOS/VIDEOS TAKEN WITH CELL PHONES, YOU WILL TAKEN OUT WITHOUT A REFUND” Now let me say this… At first, this bummed me the fuck out!! I “fan girl” out so bad for Maynard! His voice has always taken me into another dimension. All 3 of his band’s music is consistently in rotation on my Spotify playlists that I use when working on my artwork, but it filters into so much more of my daily music intake. I grew up listening to APC thanks to my amazing, badass mother! Then later in life, I discovered Tool and Puscifer. So naturally, I wanted memorabilia for my own personal reasoning. But, to be honest, this “silly rule” may have insured I had the greatest concert experience of my life! (Thank You, A Perfect Circle!)
Once inside, our seats were very easy to find but so damn close together. I enjoy my space, love my bubble, and I like to rock the hell out, but as cramped as it was, I didn’t feel overwhelmed (and my anxiety is fucking ridiculous!). The staff was very organized and well mannered, even if they did look a little petrified. The stage had been moved up to cut the arena in half, so from the lower level of the bowl, we had an amazing view of the whole stage, as well as the audience. I love to be able to see the crowd along with the band, because watching people enjoying their lives, even for a moment, is such a beautiful experience to witness in a world full of so much hate!
Lights out! To our surprise, without advertisement the badass Wes Borland took center stage as the opening act. He took the stage to the sounds of a synthesizer and drum machine. The music could be described like an ambient trance, because he took contradictive sounds and created a loop of notes that could cause someone to become lost into their own mind. He did hold a guitar, but he played the strings with a bow more than he ever did a pick. He had a live drummer playing with him before the end, though there was little, if any, vocalization to speak of…but it wasn’t about that. This was about setting the mood for the performance to come, and that was executed skillfully, and I found the performance extremely entrancing once I lost my expectations. Some of the crowd seemed confused, asking if he was “one of the of the tech guys”, as opposed to an opening act, but that’s because Borland, at no point, spoke to the crowd. No introductions, no long-winded promotions for upcoming releases, just music. “Here’s my art. Take it how you will.” That attitude takes balls and I respect the hell out of that. He only acknowledged the crowd with an appreciative wave when he was done performing. That’s putting the music first. Kudos.
As the lights went out and Brad Friedl and Billy Howerdel approached the stage, the crowd erupted! Opening with the two tracks off their new album, “Eat the Elephant” and “Disillusioned”. Remember those strobe lights I mentioned earlier? The colors of the light show would match the colors to the album of the song they were playing, along with beautiful digital artwork! Maynard had the crowd swooning as he creeped on from his rear center stage riser, no spot light, (This isn’t an uncommon trait with Maynard). The band gave the room a great indulgence in playing “The Hollow”. Which is a more than 20-year-old classic, to those big APC lovers! You didn’t just hear the crowd singing along together, but you could feel the overwhelming passion flowing in the room. As if to say at that moment, everyone was singing as one! It was absolutely the highlight of my night!
As they continued the set playing other songs; Rose, The Noose, and The Outsider, the band carried the audience on a journey through the life cycle of that band. They weren’t just there to plug a new album. This felt like more of a “Thank You” to everyone in the audience that had waited so long to see them again. During the break, Maynard welcomes the audience, talked about how great Deadpool 2 was, while ending it with a humorous, “Spiderman dies at the end.” Maynard even at one point, went as far as to mention how much he enjoyed our fried chicken here in Alabama! Just wonder where he got his chicken from???
As much homage as they paid to their past, that didn’t mean there wasn’t new music to play. Songs like “The Doomed” and “Talk:Talk” kept the crowd engaged and singing along. You could see the energy on the faces of the band as the audience proved they were still listening to the messages of the music. This was especially true in the moments where Billy Howerdel got to provide his vocal harmonies with Maynard. He doesn’t get enough credit for his range and the depth he adds to the vocal sound of this band. Keenan’s voice is a very hard sound to compliment, and he does it expertly. The more they cheered, the harder he sang, and he never missed a note. I think it’s the back and forth of that energy between audience and performer that makes these shows so compelling, and that energy would culminate in the performance of “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums”. The crowd spun into a frenzy, screaming every word in unison back at Maynard. The band seemed to be doing everything they could to wring every drop of sweat and energy that they could squeeze out of the crowd, which had taken the sound of an angry mob as they began to drown out the musicians themselves as they begged for them to play on. This was one of the memories that will be burned into my memory long after I write this. This was one of the greatest performances I have had the privilege to witness.
As with any good performer, they always leave the crowd wanting more.
The absence of songs like “Judith”, “Passive”, and “The Nurse Who Loved Me” were the only audible complaints from anyone who attended. Everyone else could agree on two things, it was an incredibly epic performance, and they could not wait for a chance to see APC again.
Editors Note: Jessica Savage is Massev's newest and brightest. Keep an eye on her, she's gonna go far! Follow her on Twitter: @MistrzOfMacabre for future articles and updates.