A Perfect Circle Squares Away New Act
By Linda Laban, The Boston Herald

"There's some new people, new songs and a new album," said Maynard James Keenan several numbers into A Perfect Circle's sold-out show at the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday night.

He went on to explain that this significant summer tour was a "warm-up, to get to know one another." And those new songs.

The audience needed no warming up. Like his other band, angsty prog-metal outfit Tool, Keenan's soon-to-be two-album-old A Perfect Circle is also fiercely loved.

The new members needed little introduction, especially former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha. Bassist Paz Lechantin, who left to join Iha's former bandmate, Billy Corgan, in Zwan, is replaced by Jeordie White, better known as Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson's band. Drummer Josh Freese and former Tool guitar tech and Circle co-founder, guitarist Billy Howerdel, remain in place.

Half a dozen new songs from the upcoming "Thirteenth Step," due Sept. 16 on Virgin Records, were carefully placed throughout the short hour-and-change set.

Though no huge departure, these songs displayed a keener sense of the band as more than a vanity project. Without losing any heavy metal force, they seemed more melodic, often with a baroque feel, and sometimes, almost quite pretty.

Warm-up it may have been, but this was a full dress rehearsal. The stage was gorgeously draped and dramatically lighted to add a gothic sensuality to the proceedings.

Each member was placed to form a circle, looking face on, with Keenan central at top, perched on a platform. Cast in wavering shadows, his strange writhing figure looked like a mythical William Blake character, wracked with intensity and melancholy.

Older songs, such as the darkly sensual "The Hollow" and a ruminative "Magdalena," led to the lilting waltzlike new number, "Weak and Powerless." Iha, with his usual quiet elegance, swapped rhythmic pummel and lead stings with Howerdel, as Keenan grandly sang each drama into a crisis.

No encore was given, but none was needed. The final song, "Judith," from the debut, "Mer de Noms," formed a pinnacle of artful, deliberate bludgeon and almost grudging beauty.