Writing a review for a live album can be a daunting task. There's only so much you can say about songs presented in a live fashion that doesn't echo what was said in the original album review, but reviewing a live box set? Time to put the coffee on.
A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo (heretofore referred to as APCL:FSAE, because I don't have all fucking day) consists of 6 discs - the first 3 consisting of each of A Perfect Circle's studio albums preformed live in their entirety, a two-disc set at Red Rocks (the titular Stone and Echo) and a dvd of the Stone and Echo performance (not available for this review).
The production on each of the albums is fantastic - too often the final mix is muddied in the inclusion of the crowd in an attempt to give you a verite feel, but winds up having the opposite effect. Here, the band is so tight and seamless that any crowd noise coming through serves only to remind the listener: holy shit, I almost forgot this was live.
Please note: As this is a digital review, there is no packaging to discuss but by all accounts is quite spiffy and impressive.
Mer De Noms Live
What's amazing about this album performed live is how much fuller and richer the songs become. There's a warmth to these songs that the original studio recording lacked. Highlights are most definitely "The Hollow" and "Thomas". The inclusion of David Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes" is a nice surprise to finish out the album. Interestingly, the "3 Libras" version chosen by the band is the heavier remix - a welcome change, in this writers' humble opinion.
Thirteenth Step Live
Once again, near perfect production highlights this one. The band plays through as if in a trance - not even acknowledging the crowd until the end of the fifth song. Frenzied guitar work from Billy Howerdel on tracks like "Pet" and "Vanishing" are making me more and more feel like a total chump for never having seem the band live.
What's most impressive about this album is how the band appears to loosen up and relax, but musically become even tighter with their performance. As the arrangement of covers on the original album was borderline genius - this album had the most to lose in front of a live audience. Thankfully those fears are laid quickly to rest after the last strains of "Annihilation" resonate through the crowd.
Stone And Echo
The real jewel of the set. What's great about this performance at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater for some and what's bound to be a source of frustration for others is the setlist and sequencing. Choosing to open with two cover songs from eMOTIVe was a bold move but proves:
A) how much the band has made these cover versions their own, and
B) how much they're unwilling to sacrifice the experience and emotions they're trying to convey to their audience, shunning the rock n roll trappings of starting a show heavy. Believe me, this reviewer has seen enough live shows to know that it takes waaaaay bigger balls to start a show with a quiet number and trust your audience enough to follow you along through the set.
eMOTIVe covers dominate the Stone and Echo set, as it happens - with the inclusion of no less than nine tracks peppered throughout the show. Also included in the set is new song "By and Down"' which can be found on APC's compilation album Three-Sixty. One point of contention for some is bound to be "3 Libras", with the band once again foregoing the original arrangement and playing the lesser-known "rock" version. It would have been nice to have both versions, but APCL:FSAE as a whole is so well made that to complain about such trivialities would only serve to cheapen the effort put forth.
8.1 / 10
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