Over the years, the biggest problem with Tool has been the group’s relentless drive to outsmart themselves through sight and sound. In the beginning, and that goes back to the release of the six-song EP Opiate in 1992, that internal overdrive set this four-man ensemble apart.
Over the next decade, they continuously redefined their musical vision with the release of Undertow (1993), Aenima (1996) and Lateralus (2001). In the process, vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey not only honed their art to an exact science, they became superstars in the process.
Then it all came to a grinding halt thanks to the advent of the Internet and endless band side projects.
And lo and behold, out of the upheaval that was decimating the music industry in 2006, out popped another Tool recording, 10,000 Days. The recording reminded fans why they fell in love with Tool in the first place.
The group then rewarded their legion of devoted and faithful followers with typical Tool arrogance – total silence. Thirteen years later the engine finally roared back to life.
Tool’s unpredictable past has literally made it a bucket list item for fans to witness live. And the group hasn’t disappointed. There have been countless Tool tours over the years but none of them supported a new album. That all changed with the release of Fear Inoculum last summer.
The band’s sold-out tour stop at State Farm Arena was proof positive that Keene, Jones, Chancellor and Casey were way ahead of the curve when they first introduced themselves to the world during the grunge rock craze of the early ‘90s. And to their credit, throughout the turbulence that rocked the music industry, Tool stayed out of the fray with countless side projects. The absence – of a new album that is – only served to drive the band’s popularity.
Tonight’s show would feature songs from the entire Tool ‘tool bag’ i.e. discography including “Merkaba” off the live box set Salival. Each song was accompanied by a visual explosion on stage that at times was highlights by a wrap-around, semi-transparent curtain that ensconced the stage.
The Tool set list was a smart one. They opened the show with the title track off their new offering. It then brought the crowd to life with “Aenima” and two outstanding gems from Lateralus “Parabol”, “Parabola” and a very long version of “Schism” with another tune off of Fear Inoculum sprinkled in-between.
Visually, this was typical Tool. The imagery projected throughout the various tunes served to enhance the aural experience Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor unleashed with their instruments. It’s not a leap to say the visual imagery served up onstage accentuated the music that flowed from the pair’s fingertips.
As for Maynard, well, he looked like he had just stepped out of the Joker movie. The singer, as usual, performed mainly in the shadows though he did occasionally step into the spotlight to ape-around one of the two platforms that flanked drummer Danny Carey when he wasn’t singing.
Frankly, it didn’t really matter how Maynard presented himself on stage. It was his flawless vocals – despite the various musical incarnations he’s performed under the past twenty years – that stole the show. The sound emanating from his mouth when he opened up was simply incredible to behold. I don’t know what secrets he uses to maintain his voice – maybe its wine from his own vineyards – but 30 years into his professional career, Maynard James Keenan sounds amazing.
Tool ended the show with their hit “Forty-Six & 2” before returning for an encore performance of two more songs off the new album, “Chocolate Chip Trip” and “Invincible”, followed by the show-stopping “Stinkfest”.
To say that Tool has evolved over the past three decades of self-indulgent inner exploration is laughable. The times caught up to Tool, not the other way around. And the group’s fan base wouldn’t have it any other way.
– David Huff