Show Review: A Perfect Circle performing Mer de Noms at The Fillmore, 11/16/2010

by Jonathan Pirro on November 17, 2010

Mer de Noms

Mer de Noms

In live music, one of the most intriguing types of performances to see is a full-album show. It is gratifying for the fans who want to hear that ONE obscure song that their favorite band NEVER plays live, and it is a challenge for the band who may not be used to playing said compositions — in a long time, or possibly at all. To take this concept and span it out into multiple nights, in multiple cities, for multiple albums, is an even bigger feat. Leave it, of course, to the men in A Perfect Circle to step up to this challenge — for they have arrived in San Francisco, and are taking over the Fillmore Auditorium for the next three nights, for this very purpose.

Rather than ask their fans to sit through an opening act — which, given the crowd, would have only been acknowledged as a delay before the “actual” show — and rather than sling the album into the middle of a larger set, A Perfect Circle marched onto the Fillmore’s stage promptly at 8:30pm and started right into “The Hollow”, the opening track of their first record, Mer de Noms. The wild screaming and jumping of the fans was all but unnoticed, as the musicians played with great focus and precision. The object of most of the crowd’s attention, singer Maynard James Keenan, hovered on a tall riser in the farthest-back corner of the stage; not wanting to take center stage, Keenan stayed slightly in shadow, wearing sunglasses to afford himself even more obscurity. Most of the energy and focus seemed to be upon founder and lead guitarist Billy Howerdel, whose meticulous playing and snarling riffs washed across the crowd as he marched back and forth across the edge of the stage.

Aside from a few comments from Maynard after every few songs — as well as an impromptu joke session from guitarist James Iha, at the singer’s encouragement — the band stuck directly to the plan and played the entire album from beginning to end. Small surprises were found a few of the pieces, however; as the band was without the magic of the studio and limited to guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums, the absence of the other instruments on Mer de Noms saw the band remaking some of their pieces in a darker and more heavily-layered style. The well-loved single “Three Libras” was altered to have a steadier and slightly stompier beat (also known as the “All Main Courses Mix”, found on aMOTION), and the otherwise gentle and haunting “Renholdër” and “Over” were recrafted in similar fashions.

Rather than deal with the time-honored but often-unnecessary process of an encore, the aforementioned joke session allowed Maynard to segue into the ending of the show. Two cover songs followed “Over”, the Mer de Noms closer: “Ashes To Ashes”, performed in a style that Bowie would be proud of, and the band’s own dark and borderline-sinister cover of “Imagine”. A hearty wave goodbye, and well-wishes and thanks to the crowd, were to be heard after the final piano note of the song had been played, and the band quickly disappeared from the stage. There was some confusion immediately from the crowd — after all, how often does a band shoot through an entire set in just over an hour? — but their own excitement over the performance seemed to last for a good while after the band’s departure.

I have no doubt that the next two nights of A Perfect Circle’s Fillmore residency will be very much like tonight: prompt, unwavering, and dead-on in their setlist, performance, and overall energy. Despite Maynard’s slightly-mocking tone as he described the chore of touring their full albums, the band seemed to be having a great deal of fun together onstage, and proceded to deliver exactly what they had advertised: the record, from start to finish, with little-to-no room for banter or clever tricks. While some fans may be turned off by this very cut-and-dry approach to the shows, as well as the lack of an opening act and a somewhat abrupt end to the night, the extra additions and reworkings of the songs certainly spiced up the performance tonight, and it is highly likely that the potential to hear every song within A Perfect Circle’s catalogue, performed live, will make even the most cynical fan ecstatic about being one of the lucky few that made it into one, or all, of these sold-out shows.

Setlist for the performance of Mer de Noms

Setlist for the performance of Mer de Noms

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brendan November 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Thanks for a great review. This was a once in lifetime event and im glad that it was performed so perfectly with the exception of 3 Libras. Likely because of no Paz to play violin. Dissapointing.

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Shogun102000 November 18, 2010 at 12:48 am

they did play 3 libras– it was the remixed version

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