Maynard James Keenan, lead singer for the rock bands A Perfect Circle and Tool, has played Lollapalooza five times, he informed the early-evening audience at the festival’s Music Unlimited stage. The first time was with Tool and dated back to 1993, he said. Keenan turned his seniority into a joke — “So you’ll probably have to speak up; I’m a little old” — but there was something poignant in the way he bowed to the crowd and thanked Chicago at the close of A Perfect Circle’s roughly hour-and-15-minute set.
A Perfect Circle’s Lollapalooza set comes after its first tour in years, and any rust that may have existed when the last superstars of what used to be called “modern rock” first reunited on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last October was clearly absent. Keenan crouched impassively in his corner of the stage, joined by guitarist/co-founder Billy Howerdel, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, bass player Matt McJunkins, and drummer Jeff Friedl. The set drew from each of the band’s three albums, but may have disappointed some of the band’s early fans by skipping 2000 radio hit “Judith.”
The songs were intricately detailed, proggy, near-metal dirges that built to cathartic conclusions, with vocals that could quickly veer from decorous to furious; as a sheer display of lockstep precision, A Perfect Circle was impressive. As sheer rock, you could see the effects of their songs about suicide, forbidden love, and halos that choke all hitting their fans in some primordial region of the brain as they shouted along. This is a kind of music you don’t hear as often anymore — partly due to Keenan’s bands’ absence — in the era of the quick mp3, but it belongs to the same epic, almost-Manichean strain as, say, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even their covers from critically derided 2005 album eMOTIVe, whether logical (Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”) or radically transformed (John Lennon’s “Imagine”) coalesced naturally enough tonight into their domineering aesthetic. Make it six?
— Marc Hogan