Detroit,Michigan (November 10,2019)-It doesn’t matter how long Tools hiatus from the public view is, the music the quartet creates continues to defy time and logic. In 2019 with critics haphazardly proclaiming that the rock genre is dead, Tool released its first new LP in over 13 years, the critically acclaimed Fear Inoculum, much to the delight of their cult like fans. Shocking those same critics who have continuously rang the death kneel of the genre, the new LP quickly moved to the coveted No.1 slot on the U.S. album chart. Though Tool’s time on top was brief, a week sandwiched between Taylor Swift and Post Malone, it was long enough to confirm that the masses still crave the sonically sophisticated sound that has been the bands trademark since their inception. In these adverse times of reduced visibility for rock, you could look at this success as a sign that the group had managed improbably to penetrate the mainstream and re-establish their status as rock legends much to the dismay of their pundits.
Saturday inside the confines of the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, the anticipation and feel was different than at any normal major arena show. A nervous energy was present in the air, which seemed to permeate the inner sanctum of each patron. Restrained, but readily displayed by the eerie stillness not normally associated with an event of this magnitude, there was something strangely different happening, more so than any other night in recent memory. Tonight was going to be an experience unlike any other, from a band that in many fans opinion, does not need any introduction whatsoever.
Wearing a full Detroit Pistons uniform emblazoned with Blake Griffins name, drummer Danny Carey took the stage first, taking his position behind his kit on a lifted platform while video projections of faces with bulging eyes floated across the curtain that surrounded the stage. Bassist Justin Chancellor and guitarist Adam Jones came out next, flanking Carey on the ground floor of the stage. Finally it was time for Tools outspoken frontman, Maynard James Keenan to make his appearence.
Clad in a black leather jacket, red checkered pants, black eye highlighting and sporting a ridiculous mohawk, Keenan took his place on the raised platforms to the left of Cook, were he would remain for nearly the entire show.
Opening with the title track from Fear Inoculum, Tool quickly set the standard for the night. Layers of intricate overlays and searing guitars mixed with the vocal prowess of Maynard James Keenan, all encapsulated in mesmerizing display of lights and emotion. If the opening wasnt enough to excite the senses, the fans were quickly stirred into a frenzy with the Bill Hicks-inspired “Ænima,” a song that implies the the only real way to rectify the perceived problems in Los Angeles, is to dispose of the state of California back into the core of the earth. Followed up without hesitation by a searing version of “The Pot,” it left some fans wondering if there was possibly an underlying message that was being subconsciously delivered by the positioning of the opening three songs of the 2-hour 15-minute set.
As usual, Tool was all business with very little crowd interaction. Keenan did take a moment early in the night to nod to his roots.“Hello, Michigan — behind Arizona, the second-best state in the continental United States,” said the 55-year-old singer, a longtime Arizona resident who spent his formative young-adult years in western Michigan. This lead to a smattering of sarcastic “boos” that were more playful than insulting.
Tools new material from Fear Inoculum was well represented throughout the evening highlighted by “Pneuma” and the multi faceted “Invincable,” that found Keenan singing about a “warrior struggling to remain consequential.” Each of the songs contained multi layered stanzas that allowed the band to showcase their immense power and delivery while Kennan masterfully delivered on the low-key vocals in a manner that was both appealing yet profound to the senses.
But the draw of the performance wasn’t just what you were watching, the unique visual display being projected behind the band or the bits of previous music videos, it was the chance to fully experience Tools intricate, multi-movement songs in a arena format that allows definitions to the musical layers and shapes to unfold: loud and with impeccable detail. Old school drums solos from Carey were clean and crisp, and when the massive gong that framed his silhouette was struck, the resonance rang long and deep. Maynard James Keenan, along with guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor played in such incredible synchronization that the aforementioned visuals became non-existent. Every song was an incredible display of experience and musical knowledge that they have accumulated through many years of playing together.
Tool did not rely solely on the newer cuts, they reached back into the archives for highlights from 10,000 Days, Lateralus, Aenima, and even one from Salival. It’s musical statement how well these old tracks, like “Schism,” “46 & 2,” and “Vicarious” work alongside each other and the newer tracks. While the setlist doesn’t seem to change much from night to night this tour, it’s a well-crafted mix of old and new, crowd-pleasers and deeper cuts, that creates a magical experience for both old fans and new.
What has become the “norm” for any show that Keenan performs, a very strict photo-video policy was also in effect. Signs placed strategically in seating areas and pre-recorded video announcements at LCA made it perfectly clear, fans were barred from using their mobile devices, under threat of ejection. Tool has softened a tad in the last few years by allowing their music to be streamed by online services, but still remain staunch advocates of the limited usage of photo-video images. With a heavy security presence and very dim lighting throughout their stage presence used for deterrents, capturing an image of the secretive group becomes more of a hassle than its worth. But as the concert arrived at its closing number, the 1996 hit “Stinkfist,” Keenan at last offered an olive branch.“Security, stand down!” the singer announced with dramatic flair. “Fans are now allowed to play with their cell phones and such!”, which he quickly followed up by declaring — “even though it’s kind of annoying.”
It’s a continued testament to Tool’s appeal that each year finds new fans connecting with their music. There will always be old-school rockers devoted as ever to the group, but in a stroke of genius they have given us an album in 2019 that is appealing and intricate as anything they have ever created. In the live setting, Keenan, Carey, Jones and Chancellor prove that the appetite for sophisticated musicianship, intelligent lyrics and scorching performances is just as strong – if not stronger, than anytime in the history of the genre.
This is a must see tour for the devout fan as well as the casual. Like we mentioned earlier, its not just a concert, it is an experience that will remain with you for a long time to come and based on Tools history of lengthy hiatuses between LP releases and tours, now is the your chance.