“It’s always a pleasure to be in Vancouver,” insisted A Perfect Circle singer Maynard James Keenan three songs into the band’s concert at the PNE Coliseum Thursday night. “This is our ‘reminding you we’re still around’ tour.”

Perhaps B.C.’s rock fans needed reminding. The less-than-prolific American supergroup, boasting current or ex-members of Tool, Eagles of Death Metal and Smashing Pumpkins (among others) haven’t released a studio album since 2004. Despite the crowd’s enthusiasm, pockets of empty seats littered the Coliseum’s lower bowl. The upper bowl remained closed for business.

A Perfect Circle are still committed to the unconventional. Rock shows are meant to be all about having a good time, right? Not this one.

The atmosphere was set before fans even reached the inside of the area, a draconian search policy ensuring that concert-goers waited in the chilly East Van drizzle for at least 20 minutes before entry. Spirits weren’t warmed upon arrival inside either, a booming PA announcement sternly declaring the zero tolerance policy for anyone daring to record their fun night out with a cell phone photo of the band.

Of course, these are peripheral issues seemingly unrelated to A Perfect Circle’s musical prowess. But this is a band devoted to breaking the accepted rules of rock performance. Most of set opener “The Package” was played from behind the stage curtain, the band’s silhouettes projected onto the screen between them and their audience. The curtain’s fall didn’t deliver a grand reveal. The band remained dimly backlit, vocalist Keenan subverting the very idea of a frontman, appearing (as usual) on a riser towards the rear of the stage. He would remain there for the entire show.

Thankfully, what A Perfect Circle lack in rock and roll pleasantries they make up for in musicianship. Even so, it took a while for them to hit top gear. It’s doubtful that many fans were hoping to hear the band’s minor key funeral march interpretation of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” (introduced by Maynard with an apology, “Sorry about our country”) or their barely recognizable version of Depeche Mode’s “People Are People.” But by the time they tore through “Thomas” they’d prized the vast majority of concertgoers out of the Coliseum’s plastic seats. “Magdalena” and “A Stranger” echoed Tool as their heavy best. The industrial clang of the brilliantly titled “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums” provoked the most prolonged outbreak of head banging of the entire evening.

But even as the band hit their stride they seemed determined to disassemble the potential party vibe they’d created.

“How’re you people doing out there?” asked Keenan, fully aware that the show was coming to its end. “Are you having a reasonable time tonight?”

He passed the mic to guitarist James Iha, and the ex-Smashing Pumpkin used his time in the metaphorical spotlight (he literally spent the entire show in semi-darkness) to deliver awkward Dad jokes. “Where does a penguin keep his money? In a snow bank!” The Coliseum did not echo with laughter.

Redeeming themselves with a superb rendition of “The Outsider,” the penultimate and arguably the best song of the night, proceedings still ended anticlimactically with a less-than-roaring “Feathers.”

No grand farewells. No encores. No band anti-parties harder.