Saturday, October 12, 2002 @ 7:00 AM
Tool Live at the Key Ar
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REVIEW BY: Chris Curtis, aka kidnothing
I remember the shiver I had back in 1993 when I first saw Tool’s video for “Sober.” There’s that one scene where the puppet character stares at a broken pipe. Through the hole in the pipe you see a meaty, fleshy thing slide along. The character reaches out, touching the flesh, as it moves along inside the pipe. My friend Carver was freaked out by it. I was mesmerized.
Seeing Tool live gives one that same feeling. Visually, there arguably isn’t another band around who can compare. Musically, they are unique and one-of-a-kind. Everyone I know can identify a Tool song upon hearing their dark, purposeful lyrics and music. And seeing them live for the first time was a tremendous pleasure.
Tool opened the show with, ironically for me, “Sober.” Scenes from that groundbreaking video were displayed on two large screens, which hung on either side of the stage. The backdrop was a curtain containing a picture-in-picture of a woman’s face, with two skulls (or so it appeared) on either side of her face.
As the song played out, lead singer Maynard James Keenan stood to one side of the raised platform area of the stage, opposite drummer Danny Carey. Keenan never left that spot, except for walking off to the side of the stage a few times in between songs. On the lower levels were guitarist and mastermind Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor. Perhaps a lesser visually stimulating band couldn’t pull that off, but the bands lack of athleticism didn’t take away from a great performance.
Following the opening song, Tool performed other “rock radio hits” such as “Stinkfist,” “Aenema,” “Schism” and “Forty Six & 2.” Each song accompanied by video, lights and Maynard’s movements. And speaking of Keenan, I now know where the characters in the videos get their shivers, quirks and dance steps. Keenan moved exactly like that throughout the performance.
A mid-set encore break was a surprise as well. The band exited the stage under cover of dark green lights while a background organ-type music played. The two video screens continued to show images, but this break lasted almost 15 minutes. During which time, I saw several people leave for restrooms and more drinks. I waited and waited, hoping this wasn’t some odd theatrical joke. However, the band soon returned and went into a full-member instrumental. Tomas Haake, from the opening act Meshuggah, joined the band on stage behind an impromptu drum kit and jammed out one of the most amazing, moving pieces I have ever heard. While they performed, a ring of lights lowered over the floor area. As these lights twirled and circled across the arena, small, silver confetti fell to the floor, glimmering as the lights struck each speck. It looked like an explosion had occurred with its remnants littering the crowd. Simply amazing.
Tool then went into other cool songs like “H.,” “Eulogy,” “The Grudge,” “Disposition” and “Parabol/Parabola.” One of the amazing afterthoughts on the evening was the fact of sound quality for all of this. I had never seen a concert before at Key Arena, but this was by far the best sounding performance I have ever been at. The clarity was as clear if you were listening to Undertow or Lateralus from a home Bose System. I’m not sure who should take credit for this, Tool or Key Arena, but I sure appreciated it.
Before playing the final song of the evening, “Prison Sex,” Keenan spoke (which rarely occurred) of their appreciation for everyone’s support of the band. He also hoped everyone would come away with positive images and ideas from the show. In addition, he wished for all to go home and have sex, preferably with someone. Thanks Maynard.
Tool has been called “art metal,” and very well may be. But as I watched the video screens, back drops, tapestries and lights, I felt I was seeing a performance where the music was the theme for a great movie. Maybe that doesn’t do their music justice, which easily stands on its own. It was just the fact that someone actually had taken the time to visually stimulate a crowd while we heard great music. Thought was added, not just anger and sorrow, to two hours of entertainment. I was floored and appreciative.
But I’m just weary of reaching out to touch that flesh in the broken pipe.