Concert Reviews

Over the Weekend: A Perfect Circle, Red Bacteria Vacuum at Verizon Theatre

A Perfect Circle, Red Bacteria Vacuum
Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie
July 23, 2011

Better than: seeing a cover band devoted to Tool and A Perfect Circle songs.

It's one thing to throw in a couple of cover songs in a set. It's a whole other thing to devote a majority of a band's set to covers.

After taking the stage at 9 p.m. Saturday, A Perfect Circle unwisely decided to feature almost all of their reinterpretations of other people's material found on 2004's Emotive. Starting with Crucifix's "Annihilation" and leading into John Lennon's "Imagine," the five-piece received welcoming applause.

But then they played "Weak and Powerless" from 2003's Thirteenth Step, and the crowd roared. The enthusiasm remained high for a few more songs, but as the band chose to do more and more covers, an air of disappointment started to seep into the mostly full theater.

It didn't help that one of the band's best-known (and finest) songs, "3 Libras," was dramatically reworked, from the beat to the tempo and the melody.

Sure, the band rocked out with songs like "The Hollow," "Rose" and "Passive" (and they even ended the show with a brand-new, unreleased tune called "By and Down"), but they only offered a glimpse into how good the show could have been.

Maynard James Keenan sounded fantastic as he was tucked away (and unlit) on stage right, behind bassist Matt McJunkins. Band mastermind Billy Howerdel commanded the stage with searing guitar lines and vocals that perfectly matched Keenan's. James Iha switched between keyboards and guitars throughout and often led the transitions from one song to the next. And new drummer Jeff Friedl was a very capable replacement for Josh Freese, virtually replicating every beat Freese has played with the band.

Yeah, the sound was great, the band played well and the lighting was entrancing, but how did this all go wrong?

Well, the covers, mainly, which were more or less snoozy placeholders. The kind of spunk you hear on 2000's Mer De Noms and Thirteenth Step material was painfully absent. And the band came across as incredibly detached from the audience.

Aside from a "good evening" early on and thanks at the end, there was no interaction with the crowd. When the band readied their encore, Keenan provided some humorous commentary on how bands walk off stage, knowing full well that they're going to come back to the stage in a few moments. APC, however, stayed on the stage and played straight through.

When the houselights came on with the Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke," people left with a lot of sighs and shrugs.

Coupled with parking fees that started at $20 and a ticket price ranging between $30 and $50, it was not surprising to find people were yelling for more even after the houselights stayed on.

Though this was billed as "An Evening with A Perfect Circle," Tokyo trio Red Bacteria Vacuum started at 8. The half-full audience seemed to enjoy the band's metal-punk bubblegum and their overly friendly banter between songs. The band's appearance was a surprise -- and given how drastically different they sound compared to A Perfect Circle, it was a surprise the crowd liked them at all.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I am quite a fan of Mer De Noms and I appreciate Thirteenth Step for what it is. I doubt I would have had an issue with the show if the band included only a couple of covers. But come on, eight fucking covers?

By The Way: The soundtracks to Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music played between sets on the P.A.

A Perfect Circle's set list:
"Weak and Powerless"
"The Hollow"
"What's Going On"
"People Are People"
"The Outsider"
"(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?"
"When the Levee Breaks"
"3 Libras"
"The Package"
"Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie"
"Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums"
"Fiddle and the Drum"
"By and Down"

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs