A Perfect Circle are one of the most revered bands in alternative music. They consistently release emotionally resonant music that challenges its audience to dig a little deeper. Tonight’s show at Brixton Academy, the first of two signals the first time the band has been back on UK soil in 14 years and follows on from their triumphant show in Manchester just one night before. To say that this tour was highly anticipated would be a gross understatement, as the buzz that surrounds the Brixton Academy is almost cult-like as the gathered masses wait for the return of their heroes.
When they finally appear bathed in smoke and dark lighting, the reception they receive is rapturous and threatens to take the roof off of the venue. Opening tonight’s show with the title track from their latest album Eat The Elephant all seems right in the world, and over the course of next hour and forty minutes, A Perfect Circle takes us on an awe-inspiring musical journey that runs the gamut of all human emotions. Maynard James Keen cuts a messianic figure dressed in a tailored suit and hidden in smoke and shadows his voice is in fine form and makes every spine in Brixton tingle in unison. The rest of the band takes centre stage as they create a euphoric atmosphere, Billy Howerdel and Matt Mcjunkins in particular feel right at home in the forefront soaking in the love from the crowd.
The production that frames the band is also nothing short of stunning, with several podiums and light strips adorning the stage which changes to fit the mood of each song in the set, there are also lasers and one hell of a light show that at times feel extraterrestrial. There is an irony to be found in a band that asks its audience not to take photos of their performances, as they then go on to put on a show that instinctively makes you want to photograph it.
The setlist the band pulls from is absolutely sublime and caters for fans of all eras of the band. It leans heavily on the excellent new album, and in the live environment those songs take on new life. Talk Talk, The Doomed, and Disillusioned being among the standouts. But it’s when the band delves into its storied past that you really see why everyone fell in love with them in the first place when they launch into a thunderous rendition of The Hollow from their debut Mer De Noms, it sounds just as fresh and raw as it did the day it was released, and the material from The Thirteenth Step that is aired in Blue, The Outsider and Weak and Powerless sounds as captivating now as it did then, the latter in particular is still one of the rawest and most emotionally fraught songs the band has ever written.
Even when they play Counting Bodies like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War drums, you remember just how heavy A Perfect Circle can be musically as well as emotionally. It’s a grinding bulldozer of a track that showcases a somewhat more vicious side that the band doesn’t display all that often and provides a great contrast to the more serene dream-like qualities found in their later works.
Of course, there are a few omissions from tonight’s set, the most notable amongst them being Judith and the original version of 3 Libras, although we do get the all the main courses remix of that one, so it wasn’t missing entirely. It is a shame to see two of the bands biggest and most beloved songs missing from what is an otherwise flawless set.
I have been lucky enough to witness some truly incredible live shows in my lifetime, but very few of them compare to what I have seen tonight. A Perfect Circle played a spellbinding set that was hypnotic and engaging throughout and in doing so they were able to unite an entire audience in leaving their phones in their pockets and basking in the majesty of the show before them. Some bands are capable of putting on incredible live shows without breaking a sweat, but there are very few of them that are able to put on a performance this captivating, this transfixing and this breathlessly perfect that it leaves their audience stunned after they leave the stage. This was not a concert, for all intents and purposes this was a life-changing experience that will live on in the memory forever that really brings home why this band is so special and has such a devoted fanbase.
A Perfect Circle will be returning to the UK in December for a string of dates. More information can be found at http://www.aperfectcircle.com