What is it about Tool that makes them so damn awesome? They get no real radio play (and they never have). They play densely written, quirky material that pushes past the ten-minute mark in length, often ignoring traditional song structure. They don’t do a lot of press and promotion. Yet their following seems to grow with each passing year, with fans old and young flocking to see them live.
People were standing in front of the venue hours before the doors opened, hoping to secure a signed album set ($750), a poster (either signed or unsigned), or an event shirt before they sold out. These items will already be online at double to quadruple the original price.
Opening band The Acid Helps played for around 40 minutes, their sludgy sound reminiscent of Melvins and The Jesus Lizard. Two large television monitors behind them broadcast a montage of retro television and movie footage (Space 1999 clips, ’50s monsters, and hippy culture clips). Their drummer is a heavy hitter – I found him immensely entertaining to watch. I’m not sure how they went down with everyone in the venue, but I found them entertaining.
Danny Carey, Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor, and Maynard James Keenan took the stage at 8:45 to a taped “Litanie contre la Peur” before erupting into their latest album’s title track “Fear Inoculum.” Maynard elicited a weak cheer from the audience as he yelled out “Buffalo” before chuckling and saying we all had a couple of hours to ‘work on that’ response.
Maynard strutted from adjacent risers to either side of Danny Carey, adorned with his “spiky hair” and make-up around his face (making him look a bit like James O’Barr’s Crow character. Updated hypnotic visuals featuring weird fractals, undisclosed slippery ‘meaty’ organisms, and chattering mouths with infinitely long tongues (along with a battery of lasers and sultry lighting effects) were the accoutrement backdrops for this performance.
Danny’s drum solo “Chocolate Chip Trip” was a total mind-bender adorned with kaleidoscopic visuals of his legs and arms working his kit and adjacent electronic equipment throughout his segment. If only all drum solos looked and sounded as remarkable as his segment did. I loved getting to see the band gather together at the front of the stage for “Culling Voices” on chairs to perform the first half of the song huddled in close together with Danny playing guitar for that segment of the song.
With Tool’s standard “absolutely no photos” policy still in place, it was a circus watching fans whipping their phones out to take photos and videos and then walking out of the venue with their heads hung low as security grabbed them and told them to leave. HINT: Maynard tends to announce that fans can take photos and videos during their final song at every show. This evening it was during “Invincible,” and the images included here were shot on my phone from my seat during that exact song.
I haven’t been to a stadium show in two years (almost to the day). It felt pretty damn amazing that TOOL was my return to live music. “Opiate” and “Hooker With a Penis” sounded as relevant last night as they did on the first listen. Long live Tool, this generation’s prog masters.
Litanie contre la Peur (intro)
Eon Blue Apocalypse
Hooker With a Penis
Chocolate Chip Trip (Danny Drum Solo)