“In typical fashion,” a phrase synonymous with Tool and one you’ll be reading a couple of times during this review.
Seventeen years ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine handed me a copy of Ænima and told me to listen to it. At the time, my very limited music taste hadn’t stepped outside of the realm of NU-metal, American Alt-rock/metal, and sporadic classic rock bands, but the seeds from that album would be well and truly planted for what would become a total obsession a couple of years later. With the exception of maybe Linkin Park and DIR EN GREY, I haven’t poured so many hours into a band. Justin Chancellor was a monolith for developing my own bass playing; a player who encouraged people to disregard this dichotomy people had with playing a certain way. Their enigmatic disposition, avoiding the spotlight and being as contrarian as possible only stood to bolster my obsession for the band, and by 2010 my fascination for the band was at its apex.
However, by 2013, with a lack of new material and the constant delays with making what would become Fear Inoculum, as well as never doing their own tours – only doing the odd festival (something I’ve never enjoyed going to) I never got to see them live – I eventually began to lose interest in the band and move my interests elsewhere. By the time Fear Inoculum came out, I was so indifferent to its release, given how much time had passed since 10,000 Days, it was almost a chore getting around to giving their new record a chance. Yet, in typical Tool fashion, 2019’s album was a total barnstorming masterpiece of epic proportion – a sleeper hit that knocked me on my arse with its main tracks. Sure, the interludes were massively self-indulgent, but the main tracks were flawlessly sublime works of art and, in typical fashion, the band shattered the notion Fear Inoculum wouldn’t meet the unfathomable exceptions everyone had for it.
Similarly, by the time the Fear Inoculum tour came around, I was somewhat shell-shocked by the fact I was going to a Tool show. I’d always heard of the legend surrounding their shows, but it was going to be interesting seeing a bunch of fifty/sixty-year-olds going on stage. Did they still have the minerals to perform the high-quality show I had only heard of all those years ago? You guessed it, in typical fashion, Tool obliterated my expectations with a two-and-a-half-hour magnum opus of visual and audio storytelling. At first, I had envisaged a show that played their titular album in its entirety; what I got was a balanced setlist that played tracks from all of their albums [and the title-track from their EP Opiates] bar Undertow. “Hooker with a Penis” was a particular highlight, as Maynard paraded around his elevated pedestal pointing at his butthole every time it came to “Point that f*cking finger up your ass,” but hearing all of these songs that I had adored for so many years in a live setting, with some of the most jaw-dropping visuals I’ve seen at a gig, was utterly mind-blowing. Listening to “The Grudge”, “Pushit”, “The Pot”, “The Patient”, and some of the greats off of their last album was pure euphoria. After the intermission, Danny Carey blew it out of the water with a typically impeccable, God-tier drum solo [“Chocolate Chip Trip”] which then segued into the gorgeous “Culling Voices” completed with the tender flutters of confetti over the gentle beams of light from the stage.
I’m not one for big-stadium gigs, I prefer the confines of an intimate small-capacity club or pub to build up a unique atmosphere, but Tool’s show was easily the best stadium gig I’ve ever been to. The fibre-optic curtain that cocooned the band for the first few songs was enamouring, as Alex Grey’s artwork sprawled all over it. The lightshow was complex and intricate, while the band members themselves killed it in their own way on stage. To my delight I was on Justin’s side of the stage and got to witness his aggressive swaying and stomping while he played, but every member had their own unique personality that synergised and created an energy entirely idiosyncratic. Make no mistake; for a band that has alienated, tormented, subverted, and eluded its fanbase since the founding of its creation, I always wondered why people endured so long and cared. The reason is simple: there’s literally nothing else out there like them. They, to this day, make cutting-edge music, and their live shows – even at their age – are like nothing you will ever see. Tool are not only the best live band I’ve seen in a big stadium, they are one of the best bands I’ve seen live. Period. After seeing this show, it rekindled that old flame I felt twelve years ago, and I’m currently going through their discography again with the same attentive love I had for them in my twenties. That wouldn’t have been made possible if it weren’t for this show.
Truly incredible work.
Eon Blue Apocalypse
Hooker With a Penis
Chocolate Chip Trip