Tool: live and unconventional

Posted on May 13, 2013


I saw Tool play live the other week and I was still feeling the effects hours after I got home. It’s a strange thing when you can’t tell whether your ears are ringing or a car alarm is going off.

This was the first time I actually considered wearing earplugs to a show. In the end I forgot to take them, but obviously I’m into a new phase of my life now. An earplug phase.

But back to Tool.

Or more specifically: winemaker, self-confessed curmudgeon and front man Maynard James Keenan. I say front man, but that’s not really right.

The front of the stage was vacant. Maynard spent the entire show up the back, in the shadows, wearing dark glasses and a short Mohawk wig. He was like a rock star in witness protection.

He didn’t chat between songs. He didn’t drop local references. He hardly said anything at all. The most we got was a nod to the fact the show had been postponed the previous night because he was sick. ‘Sorry we’re late,’ he said after the first song was done.

Apology accepted.

When he wasn’t singing he was dancing with the drums. Crouching, swaying from side to side like a mini sumo preparing to wrestle, occasionally swinging his arm like a pendulum.

And then it got weird.

After a 10 minute intermission he had a large bird perched on his forearm that remained there for the rest of the show. I assume it was fake. Or deaf.

Either way there was no mention of it.

(Photo: puscifer via Instagram)

(Photo: puscifer via Instagram)

All part of the show, I guess.

And what a show. Drummer Danny Carey was an act in his own right, a juggler keeping a blur of beats in the air without ever letting one hit the ground.

Adam Jones (guitar) and Justin Chancellor (bass) were left to their own brilliant devices in the empty front half of the stage.

The members of this band are less like rock stars and more like engineers building an intricate musical formation – and yet riff kings at the same time. When they played the classics, general admission just about boiled over.

And then there were the visions.

Nightmare images of eyes, insides and monsters along with hypnotic geometry played across digital screens while lasers bounced off every corner of the venue. Everything was calculated to twist your mind, if not break it completely, like some kind of mad experiment. Maybe that’s why the guitar techs were wearing lab coats.

Opinion in the car park after the show ranged from ‘Best show ever’ to ‘Not as good as 2002’ to ‘Would never have known Maynard was sick.

It always comes back to Maynard.

His voice is the reason Tool exists. It floats like a current through what the others build and brings the whole Frankenstein monster to life.

And tonight when the performance ended and the band took a moment to show their appreciation and wave goodbye, Maynard, the anti-front man, slipped out over the back of the stage and was nowhere to be seen.

All part of the show, I guess.

Posted in: Arts