Twilight Zone Rock Soars At Freeman By Hector Saldana, San Antonio Express-News

A Perfect Circle's Maynard James Keenan is one of rock's true shadow people, content to sing in the background and from behind the curtain in his other more famous band, Tool.

Friday at Freeman Coliseum with A Perfect Circle, he came out of the shadows - dressed like Shakes the Clown, the hard-drinking star from the early '90s film of the same name.

The alt-metal supergroup - with former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, one-time Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White and journeyman drummer Josh Freese joining founders Keenan and Billy Howerdel - launched its national tour here Halloween night with opening act Icarus Line.

With members dressed in drag, as sailors and fairy book characters, A Perfect Circle performed mostly songs from its new album, "Thirteenth Step." The Halloween audience was young and numbered about 7,000, according to a spokesman for promoter Stone City.

Keenan indeed sang opening number "Vanishing" from behind a curtain, silhouetted dramatically with back lighting. Fortunately, he dropped that Tool pretense after one song.

"Pet," "The Hollow" and "Magdalena" followed, a new dreamscape buffeted by older familiar ambience.

There are art rock pretensions and metal machine meltdowns in the mix, which at times rocks like David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails at its best. But the '80s sound, like Tears For Fears melodic flourishes on "Blue," and soaring Björk-style weirdness also define the vision.

A Perfect Circle's connection to its audience is as much visceral as aural Haunting music and lyrics, made even more so by the venue's echoing acoustics, were greeted with loud sustained cheers.

It is a meandering realm of syncopated guitar-driven brutality, majestic drumming and rumbling raga ballads that owes nothing to today's nu-metal whiners, pop punk pussycats or jam band jugheads.

The heaviness often gave way to lightness when Iha sang the Backstreet Boy's "I Want It That Way" as a joke. For his part, Keenan made lots of Christmas announcements and a few naughty sex references.

But like Tool, A Perfect Circle places emphasis on musicality first.

It is a "Twilight Zone" cerebral rock, so thick and distorted that it stomps on the brain and so spacious that the stars drop through it into the mosh pit.