It’s been fourteen years since A Perfect Circle put out a new album, and almost as long since they were last in the UK. So, anticipations were high for their live performances in London’s Brixton Academy on June 13th and 14th. Would they deliver the goods? Who would they draft in as support? Who even could be a good support act for them? With consummate professionalism, Messrs, Howerdel, Keenan, et al put on an excellent stage show, answered all those questions, and left the audience desperate for more.
With nothing in the way of theatrics to announce them, the humble support act arrived on stage. An Irish electro-pop act might not seem the most fitting of supports for A Perfect Circle (APC), but Talos not only whetted the audience’s appetite for the main headliners, but also delivered an astounding display of their own. Their sound is akin to that of Imagine Dragons, but with more in the way of atmosphere and delicate melodic lines than fist-pumping anthems. Filter Imagine Dragons through The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place-era Explosions in the Sky and you may have something close to what Talos are like.
Whether your’re new to Talos or not, check out their “Tethered Bones” video here.
Their music is dreamy, in places wistful, but never dull or boring, instead focusing on creating absorbing atmospherics that really wash over the listener. Sitting in the upper circle as I was, the band seemed very small, but their music truly filled the auditorium with waves of gorgeous melody. The audience were enraptured, especially by the arresting and passionate performance of “Run Away” from debut album Wild Alee. The two synth players worked off each other very well, layering the melodic lines carefully over each other, without ever straying too far from the careful beats of the rhythm section. Talos are definitely a band to keep an eye on.
The adulation to which A Perfect Circle appeared on stage is something I’ve only witnessed at two other concerts: Sabaton, and Iron Maiden. APC’s music is much less anthemic and over-the-top than either of those two, and they don’t bring quite the same theatrical stage presence either, but the whole performance had a similar feeling of being a unique occasion – a real event, rather than just a gig. Maynard himself was silhouetted, rather than illuminated by a spotlight, so his voice was afforded more attention than the visuals of his odd dancing. Given how iconic a voice it is, this only enhanced the performance.
The emotional range of his vocals is very impressive – moving seamlessly between the fragility of songs like “Disillusioned” or “Blue” to the potent anger of “Doomed” and a rare outing of their cover of “Imagine”. Guitarist Billy Howerdel and the other musicians in the current line-up (with Greg Friedl replacing James Iha on rhythm guitar due Iha’s prior commitments with Smashing Pumpkins) also turned in excellent performances. The music of APC has never been shy of emotional intensity, but the musicians gave so much of themselves that Howerdel actually knelt down in worship before the audience at the end.
The event may have been quite light on banter with the audience, but the artistry on display more than made up for this. The set design – a light display on vertical pillars and wrapped around the raised sections that the musicians were situated on – was quite minimalist. No tanks or Aztec pyramids here. Adding atmosphere to the performance, the light shows were used to highlight the moods of the songs being played: some grey and brooding, others in bright reds and blues. But this was the extent of it, by and large.
The band go two-dimensional for their “TalkTalk” music video.
Mid-way through, just before they played “Imagine”, Keenan discussed the state of the world today and how musicians fit into it. He dubbed the group “merchants of emotion” – a very apt epithet that also applies to Talos – and suggested that artists are able to spread light. Admittedly, comparing the light that needs spreading to chlamydia and stating that with his band he would keep spreading the… light … was a tad awkward, but then Keenan has always been one to do things in ways contrary to what people might expect.
Given how long it’s been since we were treated to a new A Perfect Circle album-and-tour, Maynard James Keenan clearly likes to keep fans waiting. But, when he finally delivers, he does so very, very well. He, Howerdel, and the others put on an astounding show, as did Talos. Merchants of emotion as both bands are, it was an evening full of intense performances from musicians at the absolute top of their game. Hopefully, after their one-off show at Wembley Arena in December, we won’t have to wait quite so long until their return.