The newly gutted, beer-sponsored Hammersmith Apollo, or the Odeon to the grey-haired among you, tonight plays host to two bands who collectively have literally defined “alternative” rock as we know it. Featuring ex-members of Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson‘s band, Tool and, not so prestigiously, The Vandals, the gig proves to be far from a “past-it” and “has-beens” night out.
Melissa Auf Der Maur opens proceedings with the newly formed band of her namesake. Sounding in the first instance not unlike a rocked-up version of Portishead or Bjork with strange harmonies and swirling echoes, the sound from the outset is incredible. Mixed beautifully and executed masterfully, the underdogs soon win favour from a sceptical crowd. By the third song, Melissa has ditched her bass and in doing so unleashes even more powerful and raw vocals on a track that shakes the faux binoculars in the posh seats upstairs.
With a guest spot from ex-band mate James Iha, the crowd is visibly more interested, and enjoy a track with skilful lead work, atop a grooving rhythm section and over-worked drummer. By the time the brutal Beast Of Honour kicks in, the seal of approval from the assorted art-rock crowd is unanimous (perhaps helped slightly by a 30-foot silhouette of Auf Der Maur’s curvaceous figure which is plastered onto the wall with seductive accuracy. But figure or no figure, Auf Der Maur have some great sounding songs that deserve closer inspection.
As A Perfect Circle take to the stage with the epic Pet, front man Maynard does all he can to disown this title, performing from behind a shadowy draped platform at the back of the stage, complete with signature wig and bent double stance. The crowd is noticeably lifted by the first notes of The Hollow, which fills the Apollo with majestic awe and is swiftly followed by Magdalena, evoking a mass sing-a-long which leaves the stewards looking worried.
After sampling some more of their newer material, Maynard decides to pass the mike to the simply “smashing” James Iha, who seeks to prove that Americans just aren’t funny with jokes so cheesy you can smell the stilton from the back of the hall. This is followed by Jodie leading a song on bass about slacks, pants, or trousers whatever you wanna call them. Anyway, it seems to amuse the band more than anyone else, who on the whole give the impression that they are here to play songs that they love (joking about garments aside) and if you happen to like it too, then good for you.
The latter part of the set is dominated by material from the brilliant Mer De Noms album, the driving force of Thinking of You hitting home like an aural sledgehammer, with Josh Freese, who was recently labelled the Bruce Lee of drums, doing all he can to pack as many punches into the song as ole Brucey would in a feature length epic.
Newbie outsider goes down well, especially as there’s a pretend encore, the notion of which is received as either the band being too damn lazy to leave the stage, or as being REALLY cool and unique. No comment from me!
One tradition APC do stick to tonight is too rock out their biggest hit last, and the crowd is rabid as Judith begins. With grinding riff and blasphemy rife throughout the venue, Maynard leads his flock in a rousing finale of cynicism.