Tool’s standing as the world’s biggest cult band was confirmed once more in Glendale on Saturday when they managed to sell out a second performance at Gila River Arena in less than three months on a wildly successful tour in support of “Fear Inoculum.”
The band’s first release in 13 years is a chart-topping triumph whose epic tile track set the tone for both Arizona performances, prompting lead singer Maynard James Keenan to deadpan “Deja (expletive) vu” at the song’s conclusion.
There definitely was a sense of deja vu for those who saw both concerts. But the setlist has evolved these past three months, affording local fans a chance to see them dust off “Eon Blue Apocalypse,” “The Patient” and “Swamp Song” this time.
That last song, from their full-length debut “Undertow,” was the oldest track they played. Keenan prefaced it by asking for a show of hands.
“If you’re 30 years old and younger, raise your hands,” he said.
Then, after taking stock in their response, he told those people, “If you’re under 30, this next song, when we wrote it, you weren’t even sperm.”
Maynard James Keenan’s enigma
It was one of three times Keenan spoke. The third time was during the encore when he thanked the fans and announced that he was lifting the strict no-phone policy for the last song.
“Security, you can stand down,” he said. “You can whip out your (expletive) and film the rest of the show.”
Then, after comparing the addictive properties of cellphone usage to crack pipes, which seemed fair enough, he led his bandmates in “Stinkfist.”
Keenan has carved out his own style of working a crowd, an enigmatic presence who stations himself at the back of the stage, in the shadows, avoiding the spotlight.
He spent the night performing on a pair of risers placed on either side of Danny Carey’s massive drum kit, often backlit in his tartan pants and spiky Mohawk, thick black paint around his eyes.
He and his bandmates played the first few songs behind a curtain made of dangling chains.
It was a visually breathtaking spectacle
That put the visual focus of the concert on the light show and the mesmerizing, frequently disturbing dystopian sci-fi videos projected on the massive screen behind the stage.
It was breathtaking, really – an art-rock spectacle to complement the music, which drew as much on psychedelic stoner-rock and modern prog as anything resembling alternative-metal, although it was certainly heavy.
The effect was often trance-inducing, drawing the audience deeper into the sort of immersive experience Pink Floyd was always chasing. And that feeling of sensory overload was helped, as it turns, by the lack of smartphones lighting up the venue.
Keenan was in brilliant voice throughout, whether throwing himself into songs as intense as “Ænema” or showing a more tender side of his vocal range on “Invincible.”
But Saturday’s performance was as much about the instrumental interplay between guitarist Adam Jones (who also played keyboards), bassist Justin Chancellor and Carey, who wore a Phoenix Suns jersey with his name across the back and took an extended solo on drums, trigger pads and a giant gong.
The setlist drew from each of their five albums, “Fear Inoculum” and 2001’s “Lateralus” getting four songs each.
The songs from “Fear Inoculum,” an 87-minute suite of deeply psychedelic modern prog that topped Revolver’s list of best releases of 2019, were as enthusiastically received in Glendale as the older songs on which their legacy is based.
That says a lot about how this became one of the most anticipated and successful rock tours in recent memory.
Author & Punisher go to 11
Author & Punisher is Tristan Stone, a one-man industrial blitzkrieg who opened the show with an intense performance of metal machine music, an unrelenting assault that left one Tool fan joking, “It sounded like Seven Inch Nails.”
The frame of reference was fair enough, but given the intensity of that performance, I would’ve gone with Eleven Inch Nails.
Tool’s 2020 set list at Gila River Arena
“Eon Blue Apocalypse”
“Forty Six & 2”
“Chocolate Chip Trip”
Author & Punisher set list
“Ode to Bedlam”
“A Crude Sectioning”
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