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A Perfect Circle, The Beta Machine 11/25/2017

A Perfect Circle, The Beta Machine
November 25th, 2017
Fall Tour 2017
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Xcel Energy Center

It had been nearly fourteen years to the day since the last time I’ve seen A Perfect Circle on stage, and over 6 since the band had rocked a crowd in the Twin Cities. With signs hanging on every possible surface remarking the band’s strict no-photo/video policy for tonight’s event, upwards of 15,000 fans made their way into the Xcel Energy Center. If you’ve never been to the Xcel Energy Center before, the venue is beautiful. Opening in 2000, the building still has that new-car-smell, and perfect acoustics for a rock show.
For the band’s Fall 2017 tour, A Perfect Circle chose The Beta Machine as their opening act. The Beta Machine is comprised of Matt McJunkins (Vocals/Bass/Keyboards), Jeff Friedl (Drums/Percussion), Claire Acey (Vocals/Keyboards), and Nicholas Perez (Guitars/Keyboards/Vocals). McJunkins and Friedl currently also find themselves in A Perfect Circle. This may be my first time seeing A Beta Machine, but I’ve had the opportunity to see McJunkins and Friedl on stage before, touring with Maynard Keenan’s Puscifer. I never know what to expect from new music, no one does, especially in a live capacity. I’ve seen enough live music to have exceptionally high expectations for every band on stage, and there are always certain standards I expect for those bands to meet.
The instant the house light dimmed, the crowd burst into cheers, and the band smashed into a brilliant performance of Intruder that seamlessly blended into Again & Again. With a stage bathed in cool blue and purple lights, the band shared cuts from their debut EP, All This Time, as well as two tracks not currently released (the set opener Intruder, and another that I was unfamiliar with). Acey’s angelic vocals blended perfectly with the heavy electronic sound from McJunkins and Perez, and the thunderous beats cast out by Friedl.
Having widened their fan-base with this tour, hopefully the band will continue to crank out new music and tour. If they do, I promise you The Beta Machine are not a live set you want to miss.

The Beta Machine setlist:
Again & Again
All This Time
New Song
The End

As the white curtain was lifted in front of the stage, a gruff voice made a public service announcement regarding the use of cellphones and recording devices during the band’s performance. Strictly speaking, it was not allowed. There’s been a lot of debating and arguments over this rule, and I couldn’t agree with it more. Several dozens fans were ejected from the previous night’s performance at UIC Pavillion in Chicago, and I was curious as to how many fans would be escorted out at tonight’s show.
The thunderous applauds and screams that erupted as the house lights dimmed gave me chills. Standing on a step stool at the soundboard, taking in the entire arena, opened up a new perspective for me.
One by one, backlights burst to life and projected long shadows of the band across the stage’s curtain as the opening chords of The Package heralded even more screams and cheers from thousands of eager fans. Nearly 4 minutes into the track, as Keenan growled “Give this to me”, the curtain dropped and fully revealed the band. Though Keenan still hung out in the shadows towards the back of the stage, his presence was unmistakable. Guitarist and founder, Billy Howerdel stalked stage left like a caged tiger ready to pounce on the crowd. Bassist Matt McJunkins, though appearing reserved while on stage with The Beta Machine, bounced around stage right, even daring to invade the portion of the stage which housed guitarist James Iha and his keyboard.
Despite having a rotating cast since the band’s 1999 formation, the stylistic content of A Perfect Circle’s music has remained consistent with Howerdel as the main composer, and Keenan crafting the lyrics. Iha, having joined the band in 2003, seemed the most reserved, and calm, even more so than Keenan during the nearly two hours the band was on stage. Tucked away behind Howerdel, drummer Jeff Friedl moved like a storm rushing across the frozen wastes.
Keenan was also rather talkative during tonight’s show, addressing the crowd numerous times throughout their performance. A bit of a backstory was given after the band’s cover of John Lennon’s Imagine, spurred on by the arena being lit up by lighters. “Are those lighters? God bless the smokers,” Keenan said after seeing the room twinkling like a star field.
Keenan also confessed to the crowd that he wasn’t surprised with the reaction to the band’s eMOTIVe release. “It’s a very political album, and some didn’t like that. As artists, its our job to open your eyes to what’s going on in the world around us.”
Tonight’s setlist was also a pleasant surprise. Saint Paul was one of only three times on this tour that Passive was played, and one of the few times for a live performance of Gravity. Hearing The Doomed, Feathers, and Hourglass played within the circumference of the band’s older material was breathtaking. Not satisfied with playing their tracks verbatim from the studio releases, this tour’s setlist would also feature two remixes from the band’s aMotion and eMOTIVe releases.  As much as I adore Pet, hearing CBLSttRotWD will go down as one of my favor live cuts. The All Main Courses remix of 3 Libras is infinitely more aggressive than it’s original version, and CBLSttRotWD is a track that was meant to be played live. Had it not been for the folding chains, I’m certain CBLSttRotWD would have had the largest circle pit.
He would also confirm that the band’s next album would be released next year. “I know how much the Twin Cities love gossip, so I’ll tell you this. New A Perfect Circle in 2018,” he whispered into his mic.
James Iha even treated the crowd to a few Dad Jokes after Keenan introduced the band. “Where does a penguin keep all his money? In a snow bank.”
A Perfect Circle are meant to be experienced live. There’s an intensity added to their live shows that can’t be explained. Whether its hearing thousands of fans screaming and singing along, or the shear for a will the band exudes while on stage, the entity as whole moves beyond expectations.
There was one final message for the crowd though. Unity. Music saves lives, and makes life worth living.

The Package

The Hollow

The Noose

Weak and Powerless


Imagine (John Lennon)

By and Down


People Are People (Depeche Mode)





3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)


Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums

The Doomed

The Outsider


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