Tool's spring tour kickoff show at Spokane, Washington's Veterans Memorial on March 4th wasn't in support of any new album or fresh project. One of the great rock acts of the last twenty years was instead there for another reason: to play a bevy of their most beloved material at brain-rattling volume.
The two-hour long set began as many of their shows have over the last several years, with a raucous take on the Ænema cut "Hooker With A Penis," before shifting into the 10,000 Days' single "Vicarious." For the duration of the night, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor stood at the forefront of the stage bathed in a soft white light, while lead singer Maynard James Keenan lurked in the shadows behind them on an elevated platform positioned next to drummer Danny Carey.
The stage design for this tour was something to behold. More than most live acts, Tool go out of their way to deliver a show designed to completely overwhelm the senses, with the visual component being just as important and as impressive as the auditory. An ever-shifting screen layout, splashed with macabre and disturbing imagery was combined with a tapestry of laser beams and periodic blasts of confetti to shift attention away from the band members themselves and toward a more deeply immersive experience. It's a relatively ego-free move, putting presentation ahead of the players.
Immediately after the opening one-two blast of high-tempo rockers, the group slipped into more intricate works with "Schism" followed by "Pushit" and then the trance-inducing "Intension."
The highlight of the night came with the singular performance of the title track of Tool’s third studio record Lateralus. Of all the songs from their extensive back-catalog, this is the one that inevitably exemplifies just how adept and necessary each individual member of the group is to the creation of their distinctive, unmistakable sound. From Carey’s devastating hand and footwork, to Jones dynamic use of atmosphere and bombast, from Chancellor’s dexterous, rhythmic bass runs to Keenan’s sometimes angelic sometimes menacing vocal lines the whole inevitably becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Following the emotional high of "Lateralus," the band departed for a twelve-minute intermission, at the conclusion of which Carey emerged to prove yet again why he's currently considered the best drummer this side of Neal Peart. Taking the stage by himself, he performed an earthquaking individual solo over a self-programmed synth piece. When Carey finished, the remainder of the group rejoined him onstage and hit the audience with a four-count of some of their heaviest material.
"Jambi" came first, then "Forty-Six & 2." This was followed by "Ænema," which devolved into full tilt crowd sing-along – 12,000 people roaring in unison their desire that Los Angeles should fall away into the ocean. The festivities came to a close with the head-bang inducing "Stinkfist," after which Keenan silently slipped deeper into the shadows as the house lights came up, leaving his band mates to bask in the adulation of the adoring audience.
Tool fans the world over patiently wait for the foursome to deliver its long-gestating new studio album. While the writing and recording process for the that work has now stretched to eight years, the band has remained relevant by putting on some of music's most awe-inspiring and visually stunning live events, which is exactly what they did last night in Spokane.
"Hooker With A Penis"
"Forty-Six & 2"
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