So what exactly happens when Maynard James Keenan throws a 50th birthday party at The Greek Theatre featuring the likes of A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, and a recently-reunited Failure? For starters, Angelenos snatch up those tickets so quickly that a second show is tacked on.
Despite the fact that alternative rock’s mainstream popularity has waned somewhat in the wake of EDM’s (and EDM-tinged pop, for that matter) massive takeover, Tool and A Perfect Circle are perhaps two of the most iconic and revered bands to have emerged in the last 20 years. Both acts prominently feature Keenan on lead vocals, which is perhaps why I wasn’t at all surprised by fans’ frantic dash to secure tickets to his birthday extravaganza — the aptly named Cinquanta — which featured the latter band; Keenan’s newest side project, Puscifer; and a reunited-after-seventeen-years Failure.
Instead of having one act taking the stage for a full-length set, Cinquanta featured a more fluid setup, with each band taking the stage for a couple songs before tagging another band in. Lather, rinse, repeat. Members of one frequently made appearances in another while those not playing would linger around at the tables set up on stage while drinking copious amounts of booze and taking turns photographing one another with an instant film camera. Sure, it was a touch disorganized, but it ultimately created a sense of casual intimacy that worked given the celebratory circumstances.
Members of all three bands took the stage first to perform alongside Failure for a sweepingly stunning rendition of “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” a song covered by A Perfect Circle on their sophomore album, Thirteenth Step. Failure continued to deliver a stellar set, the standouts of which were a beautifully played “Another Space Song” and the deliciously ’90s “Frogs.” Although they’ve only been playing together again for a couple of months, the members seem to have adjusted very well to the whole live show thing and more than deserved to share the stage with Maynard & Company.
When the dimness of the venue was cut with the first sighting of A Perfect Circle’s bright yellow logo, it was followed by roars from the crowd. They chose to open with “Weak and Powerless,” whose opening riffs deftly elicited more cheers from the crowd followed by the recitation of each and every lyric, from “Tilling my own grave to keep me level” to the final “Over you.” Every single song in the A Perfect Circle catalog followed this pattern.
Mer De Noms’s “The Hollow” triggered some seriously nostalgic flashbacks while the build up of “The Package,” which featured Puscifer’s live backing vocalist, Carina Round, was almost palpable in a live setting. The hauntingly orchestral “The Noose,” however, was undoubtedly the highlight of a highlight-infested set. It was, quite frankly, exquisite.
Although I was generally over the moon with regards to A Perfect Circle’s track selection for the night, I was admittedly a little bummed by the omissions of “Judith” and “Blue,” the latter being my absolute favorite song by A Perfect Circle and which was apparently played on the second night only. We got “3 Libras” in exchange, so I hardly have the right to complain in those circumstances, but I can’t help feeling the burn of jealousy.
Confession: Going into The Greek Theatre last Saturday, I was somewhat indifferent to Keenan’s side project Puscifer. For all you diehards planning on going berserk after reading that statement, please note the past tense. Was. Because as it turns out, I left the show with a newfound appreciation for the band. Their opener, “Vagina Mine,” might have single-handedly converted me.
“Man Overboard” was my personal favorite song from their set, but others in the audience would probably point to “Cuntry Boner” or “Three Little Pigs.” They would be equally right in doing so as those songs featured a white suit-rocking, blonde-mulletted Keegan, instrumentalists wearing gigantic heads, and references to sexytime with Willie Nelson.
Although many of Puscifer’s songs tend to sound rather muted on the albums, they definitely crank up the edginess live to deliver surprisingly hard-hitting and interestingly put together sets (maybe not to the extent that Tool might, but definitely far beyond what I had been expecting). Backing vocalist Carina Round’s undulating arms and squat-stance certainly don’t hurt either.
I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t wearing nearly enough layers for a show at The Greek, yet despite the fact that not feeling my fingers makes me irrationally depressed (who has two thumbs and was born in Southern California?), I stuck it out through the entire show. All three hours of it. That alone should be a testament to how good the show was. While it may not have been my birthday, I certainly felt like I was getting treated to something incredibly special.
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