Even though A Perfect Circle singer James Maynard Keenan performed under dim lights that made it impossible to see his face last night at Wolstein Center, he still managed to have remarkable stage presence.
His ability to give a commanding performance from atop a small circular riser positioned at the middle of the stage was a testament to the sheer power of the Northeast Ohio native’s voice.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
Keenan, who alternately crooned and snarled, possesses a distinctive voice that has turned both APC and Tool, the hard rock band he also fronts, into commercial successes despite their experimental approaches.
The concert began with the sound of a chirping cello as the band slowly launched into “The Package.” The rattling percussion increased in tempo as the band performed half the tune behind a giant white screen; the elongated silhouettes of the band members made the eerie song sound even eerie. The screen dropped mid-song as the tempo and volume increased.
While Keenan never left his dimly lit circular perch for the entire concert, he paced and danced in place, shaking his shoulder-length hair (that we imagine was a wig) while he and his bandmates delivered a compelling 100-minute set that included highlights from their prog rock past as well as a taste of a new studio album that will come out next year.
The group’s cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” came off as an industrial strength dirge as guitarist Billy Howerdel provided backing vocals while Keenan effectively whispered his way through the track. Howerdel capably took lead vocals on an equally dark rendition of the Nick Lowe tune “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
While the band proved plenty capable of striking a solemn mood, the set’s best songs were arguably the heaviest ones. “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of War Drums” benefited from pounding drums, distorted guitars and constipated vocals. The new single, “The Doomed,” fared well too as Keenan chanted the song’s refrain, which came off as some kind of twisted incantation.
When APC played its heavier tunes, the fans that filled about three-fourths of the arena became more engaged. The heavier songs also enabled the terrific band that was anchored by hard-hitting drummer Jeff Friedl to show off its incredible chops.
Allowing keyboardist-guitarist James Iha to introduce “The Outsiders” didn’t make much sense. A former member of the alt-rock act Smashing Pumpkins, Iha talked about the weather, praised Cleveland and then told a rather insipid joke about drummers (we got it; it just wasn’t that funny).
At a time when few hard rock acts (let alone experimental hard rock acts) can pull off arena rock concerts, it was refreshing to see APC deliver such a powerful show.
The Beta Machine, a band that features APC band members bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl along with guitarists Tommy Dill (who provides keyboards as well) and Nick Perez and singer Claire Acey opened the show with a 30-minute set of synth-driven rock tunes that recalled the alt-rock act Garbage.