I just got back from going to see The Man play a concert and now I'm staying up to write about what I went through there. I'd not seen him perform live in a dozen years due to my crushing student loan debt. Last time, I met him. The Man made it memorable by being a weirdo with a riding crop. It was fantastic. Tonight was also fantastic. Amazing. Spectacular. And many other things. The arena was not packed, which surprised me. Then again, it's fucking Columbia, so who the fuck wants to drive there? Um, this chick does.
And, luckily, my boss, his wife, and his brother also wanted to make the trek. There's a championship disk golf course there, so we could go early and make it a twofer. I'd never played before, but I'm down for trying just about anything once. I like to learn new things. For example, today, I learned that I throw better left-handed. But more on (moron?) that later...
The opening band, NyQuell???, only played for thirty minutes. She said their name a few times, but it was unintelligible and it was not printed on the tickets. It was a dude behind a computer and a chick with shiny blood-red hair bouncing across the stage. She wore a short, flared, black skirt with thigh-high striped black and white socks. Her slick, straightened hair flew around in a windmill when she'd pause in her darting about to headbang for a moment. Back and forth, she danced or skipped across the stage, trying her hardest to rouse the audience, many of whom were still shuffling in and finding their seats. After half an hour of her singing about heartbreak, vengeance, and being a bad girl, her karaoke session was over. They almost didn't play their last song because their time was down to two minutes and they were having technical trouble with the computer guy's volume. The cord must have come part way out of his iPod or something.
Then came thirty minutes of setting up for A Perfect Circle to come on. I watched a large man waddle onto the stage and sit down on what seemed to be a carpeted equipment box. He spent the next twenty minutes talking to other stagehands and pointing. He was the man in charge, apparently. He disappeared ten minutes before the band came on, which prompted my boss to suggest that it was actually Maynard, himself, in a fat suit.
It was a three-ring-circus
It was obvious from the start that there were three platforms on stage. The shortest and the tallest were both covered. The center one was clearly for The Man since all it had was a mic stand. The keyboard was closest to us, so the drums were furthest away. It was a huge drumkit and it took at least five people to remove the tarp that had covered them through the first "band's" set. Two more keyboards were set up at the front of the stage, for Billy Howerdel and the bassist to play.
I watched in fascination when a man came out and started vacuuming the stage with a cordless Dyson. For a solid five minutes, I sat there like--what the fuck? Is this happening? It has a purpose, right? First, he vacuumed the right half of Maynard's platform, then he went to the front of the stage and systematically swept the entire stage, front to back. My grandmother would have been proud of his straight lines.
The lights went out
People cheered, screamed, and applauded. I couldn't see anything. I did not cheer. I would not until I knew he was out there, not until I saw him with my own eyes. Stage lights came up and there he was--a silhouette in a three-piece suit, long wig of wavy brown hair swaying against him as he moved to the music. I'm glad he's not wearing the one from the video for The Doomed; it would have impeded his flow. Deep piano and guitar filled us all, causing the audience to join The Man in his subtle movements.
"Looming, omnipresent," he crooned. His smooth, soothing voice washed over me, sank into my core, and carried me away. Unable to stop myself, I sang along with him as he heaped love and praise onto his muse and his inspiration--his wife. Or, at least, that's how I interpret that song.
"Feed us, Maynard," I whispered before the next song started. Disappointment could not find me.
The opening notes of Disillusioned filled the arena while I wriggled in my seat. Then the music claimed my movement. I swayed side to side while I sang along with him, grateful for a volume so intense, I could feel it in my bones.
I was also glad that I could sing my heart out without bothering those around me. The Man has always challenged my skills and made me strive to improve my vocal abilities. I haven't been in a band in years, but that doesn't bother me. I get to create by writing my novels and by cooking. I don't need to create music. I'm perfectly content just singing along. I love to harmonize with Maynard, to take it up an octave or two or three. Sometimes, I'll stick to his tenor, or drop into his bass. It is a challenge, and like many challenges, I love it. I love that he makes me want to be better in oh, so many ways. I am perpetually grateful for his many additions to the morphic resonance of our cultural fabric.
Disillusioned is an amazing song. The power of the melody and the lyrics give me chills. It was spectacular and it falls beyond my ability to properly convey through the written word. Like so many deep and meaningful experiences, you just cannot understand it properly unless you were there and you felt it, too.
You see, despite my firm belief that Maynard is NOT the Messiah, his concerts are comparable to a religious experience. He is feeding our souls and our spirits. He is trying to teach us, inspire us, make us be better, do better, believe in the betterment of ourselves, our society, and our world. The Man cannot perform miracles. His origins are no more divine than my own. But, he is brilliant, observant, curious, and inspired. He's an unwilling leader, reluctant to tell us how we should be, fearing what will happen if he doesn't. He's just a man, as fucked up as all of the rest of us, sharing his poignant insights over and over until they sound divine.
Weak and Powerless was their third song. A popular favorite that reminds me of a former roommate from fifteen years ago who took her own life two years ago. I just can't get into that song like I used to. Perhaps it's not just because of her. Maybe, I've simply grown beyond that song. I'm no longer weak or powerless. I've claimed and harnessed my strength. I've seized my power. I am in control of my self-loathing. Well, most of the time.
For their next song, we were treated to So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish. The bass drum was so hard, I felt it in my chest, in the pit of my stomach, and pounding up through my feet, throughout my entire body. My eyes only left Maynard's platform briefly to watch the fish swimming across the basses of the platforms, across the four narrow speaker towers in the back, and up the three narrow screens that covered the lights hanging over the stage. But my gaze was continuously drawn back to the mesmerizing figure hidden behind the light.
Maynard is the "front man" of all of his bands, but he is always hidden in the back. He is never in the spotlight. The Man remains in shadow, in mystery, in disguise, as he sings and dances from the center of the light. Surrounded by brightness, it rarely lands on him, and instead, it shines out from the pinnacle of his brilliance to illuminate those around him who spread as well as seek his enlightenment.
The stage lights dropped and became rows of soft, yellow spheres, reminiscent of old theater lighting. The platforms, towers, and top screens were at their simplest during the older songs, more lively for the newest songs. The show wound up being an almost even split--eight new and ten old songs.
The opening notes of Rose carried me away into a five-song stint of classic APC. Thomas, The Noose, People Are People, and 3 Libras came one after another. Wait, maybe they didn't. At one point, Maynard stopped to introduce the band. The drummer and bassist were also from Puscifer; James Iha is back with Smashing Pumpkins for the time being. (WOOOOOOO!!!)
After 3 Libras, The Man paused again to have a word with the audience. The way he speaks to the crowd at concerts has remained the same for many years now. He doesn't just talk, he pauses in an almost lyrical way. His tone doesn't break the spell that the music has placed us under. In fact, it seems to intensify it. In his broken, poetic beat, he told us that he was not a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. He is one who questions everything. He encouraged all of us to also question the supposed truths we were being fed by those in power. It's hard to remember his exact words, but it is impossible to forget the power of them, the eloquence, and the resonance of his slightly nasal voice echoing throughout the arena. His voice is that of an angel--hypnotic, inspiring, and full of a whole slew of emotions. He spoke of how, despite their lack of political affiliation, they've become quite political.
What came next was a five-song stint of anger at the establishment, starting with The Contrarian. The opening notes brought cheers from the crowd, as his speech had numerous times just moments before. Maynard's smooth, velvet voice washed over us, warning of corruption, lies, and deceit. The lights continued to shadow The Man, his wide stance only visible in fleeting glimpses as he swayed with the music in his odd, distinctive way. Billy Howerdel's backup vocals were on target, his guitar solo uplifting the whole place, giving us hope for the change we collectively root for.
TalkTalk came next, the opening notes once again bringing cheers from the crowd. The Man's dancing took on more of a Puscifer feel. With a wide, low stance, he bounced from side to side, taking on a bit of the arched-back-Tool-sway during the passionate guitar riffs. The light continued to hide him, much of his visibility being a chance placement from my viewpoint and the lights that came out from behind his platform. Disguised in the shadows, surrounded by light, The Man is the center of attention, trying to inspire what is right.
Hourglass was fucking awesome. If you've heard the live version of Hourglass that is on YouTube, it pales in comparison to what I witnessed in Columbia. The effects were done with much more precision and clarity. His voice was sharp and clear, even through the roughening effect of the electronic altering. The light show was incredible, flashing and swinging about in perfect time with the music. It made the whole experience all the more invigorating and enlivening. Again, we could see The Man's wide stance as he bobbed forward and back, always in time with the music that controls his motions. The drums hit me right in the chest, making me feel ill for a moment before Maynard's voice made me forget about everything else. Billy Howerdel's guitar solo halfway through was spectacular, but Jesus tits, when is he not? The piano was powerful and strong, an important and vital component for the complexity of this piece. I'm really just tickled pink with the amount of piano of the new album.
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums carried on the powerhouse set. The growls of The Man were carried by the pounding drums right into my bones before his soothing lullaby seemed to lift me in my seat. He gripped the mic stand with both hands, his right foot far behind him, his left knee bent, as he sang and rocked forward and back. Echoes of his voice filled the arena while shadows of his wavy wig seemed to exaggerate his movements.
The only song that could follow the intensity of Counting Bodies was The Doomed, which is exactly what we got. The powerful drums and guitars were hypnotic. The Man's sorrowful voice was angelic, wavering with emotion as he lamented those who cannot overcome the doom that is coming for them. His powerful tenor filled me with hope, shame, and sorrow for humankind. The whole place seemed to be in awe, mesmerized by hearing this song live for the first time. It was incredibly intense.
The lights went out again, leaving us in darkness as we cheered. The Outsider, another popular song from Thirteenth Step, was followed by The Package and then Gravity. I really love these songs, but it's hard to not love his music. Then again, The Outsider reminds me of my former roommate, as does The Noose, since she hung herself. Associating these songs with her makes it hard for me to enjoy them like I used to.
And, while I understand the necessity of these "angsty" songs, I just don't feel them like I used to. Perhaps I've grown beyond needing them. They no longer feed me like they did when I was younger because I've learned to accept myself for who I am. No one can make me feel bad for being myself. I may still be an outsider, but that no longer bothers me. I am who I am, and fuck anyone who tells me to be something I'm not. You think I'm too old for my piercings? You want to tell me to cover my gray hair instead of coloring it blue and purple? Go fuck a tree. I hope you get splinters.
The guitar and drums came softly, then The Man's voice began again. The Package was beautiful, but I'll admit I was starting to get antsy for another new song. Wouldn't they play any more songs from the new album?
"Lost again," he sang, carrying me away again on a melodic journey of surrender and peace. "Catch me, heal me," I sang along, joining my voice with those all over the arena. His wide stance was gone for the moment. He stood close to the mic stand, raising his arms from the center of the shadow as he called for an uplifting. His spell was cast over us all, his voice and the drums commanding our attention, the guitars bringing us closer to the enlightenment and love for life that he implores us to seek.
The final song they played was Feathers. The opening guitar riffs made my heart jump into my throat. The prominent piano and The Man's hauntingly sorrowful voice brought a palpable sense of soothing peace over us all. When he sang, "I'm like you, just like you," no one cheered. We were all too mesmerized by the harmony of what was happening in front of us. Blue feathers fell across a black background on all of the screens, lights flashed and danced, but it was the music that drove it all. The raw, genuine emotions that come through in APC music is incomparable. The Man's angelic vocals are impossible to not empathize with. He forces you to listen to his words by drawing you in with his resonant melodies. When Billy Howerdel broke out into another guitar solo about two-thirds through the song, everyone cheered. Because, again, Holy Monkey Balls, Batman--he's so fucking incredible.
The only way he could have ended it better was with an encore of Get the Lead Out. But there was no encore. The lights came up and they came out for a bow. I barely caught a glimpse of Maynard's dark suit as I darted for the door. A long day of being in the car drinking coffee--then outside and chugging water--had left me with an uncomfortably full bladder. But, just as I'd suspected, it was a double-breasted suit with a matching vest. Because The Man has class and style.
OK, the concert is over. The rest is about me...
If the show had been in Kansas City, the arena would have been packed. The energy would have been tenfold. There would have been an encore. We'd have refused to leave without one. Because concerts in Kansas City are wild, intense, and amazing. I've been to concerts in close to a dozen cities and we really do make the best audiences.
If the concert had been in Kansas City, my husband would have been filling the empty seat beside me. It was a constant, haunting reminder of the guilt I felt about him not being able to come with me. The concert fell on the first day of Ramadan and he couldn't be gone all day. He had to be at his grocery store for the heavy business they'd be getting. He couldn't be out, running around Harmony Bends without any water or food until nightfall. My husband, who has been listening to me sing this album for the last month, had to miss the concert I'd looked forward to so much. He's not a big fan of American music, but I've spent four years singing the best of the best to him, trying to win him over to my taste. He actually wanted to come, but we knew he couldn't and it sucked.
My first time playing disc golf
I'm a 36-year-old child. All day, I had to bite my tongue so that I wasn't constantly making "that's what s/he said" jokes when my companions kept talking about how big, small, long, hard, full of woods, or easy the holes were. It would have gotten really old really fast because there were a lot of opportunities.
The course itself was gorgeous. I can see why this is considered one of the top courses around. The very first hole had a creek meandering through it; we threw over it twice. I landed a disc in it once, but so did two of the others. Nothing went where I was throwing it.
They all gave me tips, but I was so overwhelmed by the surroundings and the socializing that I had trouble heeding their advice on throwing. Mostly, I relied on my own instincts, desire, and strength. I was switch-hitting by the second hole. All of my right-handed throws had veered off to the left. I wondered if throwing with my left would make it go to the right. Nope, not so much. My left-handed throws went pretty straight if I released it on time and followed through. It feels like I'm about to hammerfist someone in the face. I like it.
There was a lot of walking, climbing, and crossing running water on this course. There were even a few stints steep enough to have necessitated the building of wooden stairs into the hillside. A few other sections needed stairs but didn't have them. The others assured me that most courses were much flatter, it usually wasn't this strenuous, etc. They seemed to be worried that I'd never want to do it again. That's not an issue, though, since I've been looking for an excuse to get outside and do something both physical and fun. My upper arms, shoulders, chest, and back are super sore the next day. It's awesome. I'm going to have to find a way to keep doing this in spite of my always busy schedule.
As a bit of an end cap, how insanely appropriate is it that we went to a place called Harmony Bends before going to see The Man?