Time Moshes On
By Keith Spera, New Orleans Time Picayune

A Perfect Circle is the art-metal supergroup of the moment. Founding guitarist Billy Howerdel and frontman Maynard James Keenan, also the singer for former Voodoo headliner Tool, are now backed by veteran drummer Josh Freese, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, and former Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie "Twiggy Ramirez" White.

With both Tool and A Perfect Circle, Keenan has carefully cultivated an image as a mysterious, often bizarre character, one as introverted as most rock singers are extroverted. Rather than preen and parade on the ramp extended into the audience, Keenan spent A Perfect Circle's entire Sunday set on a platform at the rear of the Fuse Stage. His face hidden by a long wig, he rarely sang at the audience, preferring to look to the side. Bent slightly at the waist, head down, he pivoted on one foot and stomped in a circle.

But he also made liberal use of a bone-dry sense of humor. He introduced Iha as "Barbra Streisand. We call him 'Babs.' " He named himself "Maynard, aka Moby." He suggested fans buy six copies of A Perfect Circle's new CD, "Thirteenth Step," enough to construct a box. "You don't have to," he said. "I'm just saying it would help . . . me."

A Perfect Circle performed in Houston Saturday night, but someone apparently apprised Keenan of Manson's comments at Voodoo. "So New Orleans is the place that got Marilyn Manson hooked on drugs and alcohol," Keenan said. Then, facing "Twiggy" White, he said, "You can verify that? Good times." Pause. "New Orleans got me hooked on Internet porn."

Not to be outdone, Iha delivered an a cappella rendition of *NSYNC's "I Want It That Way" that ended with a hideous scream.

Former Perfect Circle guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen is now the second guitarist in Queens of the Stone Age, who preceded A Perfect Circle on the Fuse Stage; Van Leeuwen stuck around to watch his former band from the wings, an opportunity not lost on Keenan. Spotting Van Leeuwen, Keenan ordered him to sit in the middle of the stage. "We'd like to dedicate this song to everyone but Troy," Keenan said, introducing "The Nurse Who Loved Me."

Later, Van Leeuwen was invited to play guitar on a malevolent, set-closing "Judith." "Troy, we're not paying you for this," Keenan said. "OK, $2. And a cold bowl of jambalaya."

Between quips, Keenan and company delivered one precisely sculpted slab of art-metal after another. Freed up from his Twiggy Ramirez character and costume, White revealed himself to be a bassist of surprising dexterity. Iha's chiseled rhythm chords freed Howerdel to orchestrate solos and other garnishes. Freese's pinpoint accuracy and attack held up the structures, waves of sound cascading and breaking, alternately majestic and sinister. A Perfect Circle's music is not as dense or dark as that of Tool; delicate moments appeared in the mid-tempo "3 Libras" and elsewhere. But mostly, they bore ever deeper into explorations of Keenan's inscrutable subconscious.