The massive Tool tour tolled into the New York City area in mid-November, and there were telltale signs this was not your typical happening. Sure, Tool is an “event” live and there really is no other show like it on earth. That is not an exaggeration. Take the best arena Rock or Metal show you’ve ever seen and ratchet it up to eleven! That is what we are talking about here. In addition to the power of the record-breaking release of Fear Inoculum (Tool Disectional, Volcano, RCA) we were going to get to hear new songs live, some for the first time ever. All the stress Tool fans felt about the wait for the album and how would it be received have all melted away. Time for this very big deal of a show.
Killing Joke is a great choice as an opener, as they were massively influential on the generation of bands that Tool belongs too. Maynard has said he was personally influenced by early Killing Joke and Jaz Coleman’s vocal, lyrical and performing style. Sadly, the arena remained mostly empty for KJ’s set of classics and some other gems. People seemed really uninterested, except for a few around me singing under their breath, just as I was. I had interviewed the irascible Coleman earlier in the day for the Ghost Cult Podcast, and while he professed glowing love for the headliner, he seemed to say he missed small theaters and clubs over the money and fame this tour brought with it. My only continuing quibble with Killing Joke is their refusal to play mid-90s Keefy favorite ‘Millennium’, but I have heard they hate the song.
The entire arena filled in the sold-out show between bands. The giant wispy curtain occluded the stage while staging was set up. There was intense crazy energy for those that have seen Tool before and a “squuuueeeee” from the newcomers, which based on the hype of the tour, meant a lot of new fans. Many repeated announcements and seat front signs about the Tool photo policy were mentioned and repeated. An ominous sign of things to come.
They came on stage with less fanfare than in previous tours I’ve seen. The walked out on to the stage in this order Adam, Justin, Danny and finally Maynard. They launched into the title track of the new album, a fitting show opener if there ever was one. The celebration was on and it was as the kiddies say, “lit fam”.
It’s tough to put into words a Tool show visually. It’s easy to dismiss it as an attempt to overstimulate the attendee. Really though, what band tries so hard to match the visuals to what the songs are doing and do it as well as they do? In history: just a few come to mind such as David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, and Rush. All peers and influences on Tool by the way. But the band surpasses even their own past efforts with a four-dimensional assault on the eyes and brain, using projections cast on the retractable, see-through half curtain around the front of the stage, as well onto the floor and within the arena over the crowd too. It seems like only what they can imagine now limits their Alex Grey inspired album art, come to life and then some. Sometimes the band still uses their haunting videos for ‘Ænema’, ‘Vicarious,’ ‘Parabol’/’Parabola,’ and ‘Stinkfist’ behind them for effect.
Musically it was an immense setlist. The band performed for over two and a half hours. It was satisfying in every way to hear the new songs like ‘Pneuma’ and ‘Invincible’; two of their best of the new album done so flawlessly. They seemed to be enjoying them as much as the fans. Maynard crept around wraith-like from one side of the stage to the other. He sounded amazing as his angelic voice filled up the building. At one point sitting on a half-stack, he was kicking his feet like a happy little kid on a park swing. We were happy too!
More about the security forces. Trying to find my seat originally I was misdirected by an usher, and then corrected by another. The second, helpful person told me the venue hired hundreds of untested new ushers and security people in black shirts to help enforce the famous cell-phone ban. Now I had heard at other shows fans got a stern warning to put the phone away or not take photos, lest they be removed. Clearly, these rent-a-dickweeds at the venue didn’t get the memo about the civility part. Fans were being ejected forcefully by non trained security people for just looking at their phones. Twenty or more security people running up and down the aisles ejecting people. What the fuck? I saw thirty to forty people tossed out, just in my sections, including a handicapped guy with a crutch, a girl that was carried out, off her feet and by each limb as she screamed, and the head of the largest music blog in the world. Again, I respect the policy, but people have kids begin babysat and ill parents. We live in an age of miracles with these devices, but also the addiction to the hits of dopamine is real. I didn’t touch my phone for the entire show just about. Either take away the phones, or have a policy that is just “no photos or videos”, but to too people out for looking at their phone, not trying to film the band, that is plain dumb. This took me out of the show for different parts of the night and was disappointing. Mind you, I have seen many great shows at Barclays Center, including flawless help from security at Iron Maiden over the summer.
Back to the show, after a ten-minute break, 80% of the way through the show, Danny came back on and did an epic instrumental drum solo for ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’, complete with the correct way t play a giant Gong! Amazing and real treat to hear live. After a strong run through of ‘Invincible’, Maynard welcomed up Alex Grey to sit in for the final song, their mega hit ‘Stinkfist’. They also allowed fans to film and take photos of the final song (similar to A Perfect Circle’s last tour). The extended version of the track was magnificent, and similar to fireworks on the Fourth of July, the band expended all of their special effects-laden glory all over the crowd I the form of laser lights, strobes, and colors. The spectacle of the show was dimmed only by the staff behavior, but certainly, this was the concert event of the year and the among the best shows by the band ever.
Schism (Short, with Intro)
Part of Me
Forty Six & 2
Chocolate Chip Trip
Stinkfist (with Alex Grey) (Long)
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES
PHOTOS BY OMAR CORDY OF OJC PHOTOGRAPHY*
*from the Newark, NJ tour stop.