Mars Volta, Perfect Circle Take Opposite Approaches To Unforgettable Performance
By Tommy Miller,

Last Tuesday's Mars Volta/A Perfect Circle show at Pepsi Coliseum started with opening act, the Mars Volta, packed into the middle of the rather large stage with what appeared to be a giant spider woman as their backdrop. All six members of the band then did exactly what I expected them to; they did what they felt like doing with no regard for pleasing anyone but themselves.

There was no pandering to the crowd that had come to see A Perfect Circle, or even to the people that owned the "Deloused in the Comatorium" disk. No, this was a not a set for sing-alongs or head bobbing along to your favorites. Instead it turned out to be a show that was reminiscent of an improvisational jazz jam.

The band was quick to start the show with an explosion of energy that seemed to make vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala act as if he was being puppeteered. There was not a point from the opening note to the final ringing of the cymbals that he stood still. Whether it be running in place, doing front hand springs all over the stage, or doing what seemed to a tribute to the almighty James Brown, his feet never stopped shuffling. More impressive still is that he managed to hit the notes that has added such a signature sound to The Mars Volta.

Some ticket holders might have felt cheated because The Mars Volta only ventured in to three songs off of their disk. I, on the other hand, felt a bit "privileged," if you will. I felt like I was watching a one-of-a-kind performance, as I couldn't imagine how the band could ever duplicate the jams that they had just managed to pull off right in front of me.

If there was anything wrong with the set that The Mars Volta played, it was the sound. From where I was sitting I couldn't hear the bass guitar at all and I thought the auxiliary percussion could have been turned down a little. At times I felt like I might have been missing some of that sound. I don't, however, blame the sound issues on the band. A show like this calls for a good mix, as everyone is doing something that is important to the jam.

I will be the first person to admit that I wasn't sure where A Perfect Circle was going to go musically after they added Jeordie White and James Iha to their lineup. I might have even been a little bit worried. But when it comes right down to brass tax, vocalist Maynard James Keenan is only going to surround himself with musicians that he feels can get the job done musically and creatively. I should have known that from the get go. The show came off as a testament to the quality of the band.

The band sounded thick and the vocal harmonies, specifically White's, added a nice sonic layer that a lot of bands might not be able to duplicate with only having one singer. The sound was so close to their album's sound in places that the songs seemed to inspire a coliseum wide karaoke session. I know that I participated.

Keenan, who was celebrating his 40th birthday during the show, came across as powerful on stage as he does on CD. Perhaps the oddest, and most interesting thing, about Maynard's stage show was that the light never hit him when he was standing out in front of his silk screen that he began the show standing behind, except to do his magic trick for his birthday.

A Perfect Circle also features Josh Freese, arguably the hardest-working drummer in rock today, who played the entire set with a broken knee. The injury limited his ability to play double bass. Fortunately, he played anything that he would have normally played on double bass on floor toms instead. Honestly I was none the wiser about the change and I am not sure anyone else was either.

If A Perfect Circle has any flaws at all live, it's that they have tried to make everything sound album perfect. While most of the time such perfection makes for good performance, doing everything spot on perfect can really expose mistakes when they occur. Case in point: there were one or two vocal harmonies that really made my ears prick up like a dog that has just heard a car slam on its brakes. Mind you, this was only for moments at a time, then it was back to being album perfect.