A Perfect Circle In Step With Its New Songs And Line Up
By Bob Gendron, The Chicago Tribune

As one of the final dates on its exclusive warm-up tour, the art-rock quintet A Perfect Circle used a Sunday night stop at Metro to unveil new songs and road-test a revamped lineup, the newest member of which made his long-overdue homecoming.

Performing at the very site that was instrumental in launching his career, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha received a hero's welcome. Handpicked for the band last month, Iha joined Jeordie White (formerly known as ex-Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez) as the latest recruits in an all-star cast that sounded remarkably tight and appeared to have genuine chemistry.

The start of Sunday's sold-out concert was delayed for more than an hour because of the extra time required to set up the band's equipment and find an additional generator to power its light show. Although a line snaked around the block, fans patiently waited their turn to enter the venue for the rare opportunity to see APC in an intimate setting that the band requested remain smoke-free.

Taking its position on a stage crammed with amplifiers, risers and speakers, APC wasted no time giving the crowd a taste of the forthcoming "Thirteenth Step" album. As he sang "Pet" enclosed in an elevated four-poster platform shrouded with white curtains and illuminated by floodlights, vocalist Maynard James Keenan appeared as a silhouette. But when the first notes of "The Hollow" rang out, the canvases dropped and revealed Keenan, whose long, clumpy hair obscured his face while he convulsed and twitched to the music's dramatic rhythms. As if caged in by an invisible electric fence, Keenan didn't once vacate the space during the hour-long set. Though a clear plastic screen separated the enigmatic singer from drummer Josh Freese, it didn't stop him from heaving his body in Freese's direction or staring at his own reflection while hopping like a dancing bear.

With his physical tics, Keenan is APC's most visible presence but Freese is the unit's tireless machine. He splashed his arms about his drum set, thwacked wood-splintering beats and transitioned difficult time signatures without a hitch. White was also an asset. His molten bass lines curled around Iha and Billy Howerdel's swirling guitar leads, expertly guiding the shimmering "The Outsider" and meditative "Orestes."

The quintet's new, multitextured material was its most engaging. "Weak and Powerless" and "The Package" each walked a fine line between simmering and exploding. Former APC bassist and recently departed Zwan member Paz made a surprise appearance on "3 Libras." Her violin solos generated a positive response, but it was APC's searing, show-closing "Judith" that whipped the audience into a much-anticipated frenzy.

Openers Pygmy Love Circus provided evidence that Spinal Tap lives on. Pulling out masks, stuffed dolls and pretend knives and guns from a bag of tricks, the group resembled a gang of disgruntled carnies armed with a sense of humor and a stolen Motorhead songbook.