DS Photo Gallery: Sessanta, Night Two – A Perfect Circle (w/Josh Freese!), Puscifer and Primus celebrate Maynard James Keenan’s 60th at Boston’s historic Wang Theatre

In what may be one of the more random and unique turns of events in the recent memory of at least one long-time DS staffer (read as: me), we had the opportunity to shoot night two of Sessanta at Boston’s Wang Theatre. What is Sessanta, you might ask? Valid question. Sessanta – the word – translates from the original Italian to “sixty” and not, contrary to popular belief, to “sexy Santa.” But Sessanta in this case is so much more. Specifically, it’s a touring celebration in honor of noted oenophile and Brazilian jiu-jitsu enthusiast Maynard James Keenan turning – you guessed it – sixty years old, a fact that is at least as mind-blowing as the show itself that celebrated the momentous occasion. (Seriously…Elvis died at 42 and Wilford Brimley was like 49 when he started shooting Cocoon and Jerry Garcia died at 53 and Maynard still looks like has aged maybe two weeks since he was stalking the stage at Lollapalooza 1993 during the handful of Tool appearances on that iconic tour. Maybe there’s something to a life of wine and martial arts and not, in Elvis’ case, Demerol and tranquilizers and, well, and martial arts. But I digress. As usual.)

The Sessanta touring monster is a three-headed beast that features Primus and two of Maynard’s non-Tool-related musical projects, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. The tour marks the first A Perfect Circle dates since 2018 – and I think the first dates with Josh Freese on drums since like 2011. Each band is certainly more than capable of headlining a similarly-sized venue (now in its hundredth year, the historic Wang Theatre holds 3,500) in their own right, so having all three on the same bill creates the problem of “who is going to headline?” To tackle that, Keenan and company created an evening event with all three bands trading spots and hoping on and off each other’s sets over the course of three hours. The stage was set up with three drum kits on a shared riser that was bookended at stage right and stage left by staircases that lead to seating areas each adorned with dual couches for the rotating cast of characters to hang out on and watch the festivities when it wasn’t their respective turns to perform.

All told, the trio of rock heavyweights pounded out twenty-nine songs over the course of the evening, with none of the bands really taking much in the way of precedent over the others. After a series of video reminders about the consequences of violating the show’s cell phone/camera policy, the musical portion of the celebration kicked off with a trio of songs from A Perfect Circle – “The Package,” “Disillusioned” and “The Contrarian” who then gave way to Primus’ well-received run-throughs of “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweakers,” “Too Many Puppies,” and “American Life.” Then it was Puscifer’s turn to take center-stage, with commanding performances of “Galileo,” “Horizons” and “Indigo Children.” With each band’s initial three-song mini-set out of the proverbial way, the evening turned progressively more collaborative. Act 2 kicked off with Primus playing a trio of their biggest hits in succession: “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver,” “My Name Is Mud,” and “Tommy The Cat,” the latter of which saw Keenan himself taking Tom Waits’ position in the titular role from atop the stage left staircase. Puscifer returned for what really was the heart of the set – a four-song collection of “Flippant,” “Momma Said,” “Bullet Train to Iowa” and “The Underwhelming.” A Perfect Circle returned for “The Hollow” with Primus’ Tim Alexander on drums. Astute observers will recall that Alexander was APC’s founding drummer and his drumming on the studio version of that song marks his only recorded appearance in the APC catalog. On this night, as he did in the band a quarter-century ago, Alexander then handed the reins back to Freese for “So Long, And Tanks For All The Fish,” “Weak And Powerless” and “The Outsider.”

Act 3 started with a Puscifer return, closing out their portion of the evening with “The Humbling River” and “The Remedy.” A Perfect Circle then played arguably their two biggest hits – “The Noose” and “Judith” before Primus closed out their portion of the main set with an extended “Southern Pachyderm,” which featured Freese and Olsen joining Alexander as a three-headed drum soloing monster. The set closed with each band performing their new tracks that appear on the tour-exclusive new EP; APC’s “Kindred” performed with Puscifer’s Carina Round, Puscifer’s “No Angel,” and finally Primus’ “Pablo’s Hippos,” performed with Keenan himself. Then it was time for the grand finale; the entire twelve-headed monster took to the stage simultaneously to bang out what I guess you would call a cover of Puscifer’s “Grand Canyon.” You really should watch the latter – it’s something to behold.

As I alluded to before, the show brought with it a strict “no cell phone/no photography” policy which was startlingly well adhered to. It sounds weird maybe to mention in a show review, but we’ve reached the day and age where it is truly noteworthy – and undoubtedly refreshing – to be at a show filled with people who are just reveling in the experience in real life and not through a screen…and I say that as someone who watches shows through a screen for a (pretend) living. The atmosphere made for a compelling watch. Certainly, it seemed most show-goers were most stoked to see A Perfect Circle, especially with the powerhouse that is Josh Freese supplying the drumming duties. I think Billy Howerdel is a tremendous writer of poignant, heavy yet atmospheric music, and it creates for a live performance that borders on haunting at times. Primus, though, had a large contingent of their own fans singing and dancing along as Les Claypool and crew frog stomped their way through their particular brand of psychedelic prog funk jam rock. Puscifer are a band that I think a lot of people traditionally sleep on, because maybe of the sort of juvenile band and song/album names sometimes, and because I think they’ve been mischaracterized as a catch-all for Maynard’s non-Tool/APC musings and, as such, not as “serious” a band, but let me tell you…that band rules. Hard. Especially live. The interplay between Maynard and the spell-binding Carina Round’s voices and personalities was captivating, and genuinely lent itself perfectly to the gothic, theatrical setting.

I was going to write a more thoughtful outro to this show review, but in my brain, I keep hearing Stefon, Bill Hader’s brilliant city correspondent/club promoter from SNL’s Weekend Update like 15 years ago. “This show had everything; a birthday cupcake for Maynard James Keenan, three drummers at the same time, Les Claypool in a pig mask playing standup bass with a bow, an Ameriglide stair lift, Josh Freese and Billy Howerdel playing ping-pong, not a single cell phone in sight for three full hours (minus a ten-minute interlude); a hundred-year-old theater where they filmed Witches Of Eastwick.” It really was a special sort of show, and for being only night two of a tour filled with a lot of chaotic moving parts, it seemed from where I was sitting to go off without a hitch. Check our more photos below, albeit only from the show’s finale because that’s all we could shoot. The greedy photographer part of my brain thought it was super unfair because the people deserve to see pics of such an amazing atmosphere…but the cranky old man show-goer part of my brain feels happy we got an uninterrupted treat all to ourselves!

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