Maynard James Keenan Celebrates His 60th In Style at The Greek

Sessanta, a 60th Birthday Celebration for Maynard James Keenan
Greek Theatre, Berkeley
April 21, 2024

Photos by Paul Piazza

Those at the season opening show at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre were treated to a very unique evening.

The show on this picturesque April evening, was entitled Sessanta. It was a celebration of Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s 60th birthday that included Maynard’s two “other” bands, A Perfect Circle and Pusicfer.  It also included Bay Area heavy-funk adventurers Primus. That’s a lot of great music in one night.

Maynard James Keenan and Les Claypool

And to make things even more distinct, the bands were all set up on a two-tiered stage that featured three drum kits on the top layer, along with a couple of lounging areas with some sofas positioned near a staircase on each side. Each staircase featured a working stair lift that was utilized from time to time by either Keenan or Claypool. Sometimes both simultaneously. Down below there were the amps, guitars and keyboards and microphone stands.  Everything was set up for all three bands to make it simple for the groups to simply trade places once they finished a brief set. They did this about every three songs and followed the rotation three times through. Later, all three bands performed onstage at once or in altered iterations.

As the evening unfolded, the interchangeable setup allowed for an interesting change of pace as well as a change in atmosphere due to the three groups being more than a bit sonically different. It also allowed the members who were swapping out to remain onstage on some comfy looking velvet sofas and rock out to their friends or goof off in other ways. During one song, a ping pong game broke out between Primus drummer Tim Alexander and Puscifer vocalist Carina Round. During another, Keenan mixed drinks for everyone.

Maynard James Keenan

Maynard, who turned 60 a few days before the show, looked and sounded in top form. The singer makes a point to stop in for some rounds of mixed martial arts style training in whatever city he is in while touring and he looked very fit. His voice was also in quite good shape as he gave us a wide range of notes and powered through some of the heavier A Perfect Circle numbers in tip-top form. Perhaps his most memorable number of the night was when he joined in with Primus for “Tommy the Cat.” Keenan took on the Tom Waits part as he intensely read from a diary-style lyric book while seated on the stair lift.

Claypool, who also recently turned 60, was in top form as well. Both he and Keenan run their own wineries and are both seemingly always on the go with countless projects. Claypool, who wrenches on his own tour buses, recently acquired his pilots license.

Carina Round, Maynard James Keenan and Les Claypool

The musical balance of the evening was that Puscifer functions as Maynard’s creative subconscious, while A Perfect Circle shows a poignant and more melodic side. Meanwhile Primus would step in with an aluminum baseball bat of the familiar heavy hitters. Claypool at one point mentioned that he had come up with “My name is Mud” years earlier backstage at this very venue. With the simple swapping out of bands every three songs, and the occasional sit in by members of the other bands, things seemed to flow seamlessly. If things starting feeling mellow, the Primus set would jolt the crowd into place.

The night was also a commentary on aging with the ongoing gag of the stair lifts, which somehow fit into the arrangement naturally. Of course, at one point, Maynard and Les had a goofy stair lift race that was reminiscent of a silent movie farce with a heavy soundtrack. There was also an intermission video that featured Maynard in a deteriorating state in what appeared to be a convalescent hospital suffering from memory loss. Throughout, there was an air of making light of our short time on this rock.  At one point Claypool introduced Maynard as “an O.G…Old Goober.” And while a bit of jest was enjoyed between the players, the fact remains that they have had an eternal impact on the music of the last 30 years. And that, coupled with their ongoing work ethic, is a pleasure to behold.


Here’s to hoping they can all go strong into their 70’s and beyond.