Tool: The Best Hard Rock Band. Period
Mike Hess
7/16/2002 11:16:22 AM

Tool has been dubbed "the best rock band since Led Zeppelin", "the new Pink Floyd", and many other monikers during their almost 10-year career. But during a rainy Friday night show in Mass., they proved that they are far beyond any comparison.

With video screens backing the stage, the four members of this California-based juggernaut strolled out onto their trippy blacklight-aided set. An overwhelming sense of urgency and anticipation came over the crowd, as the band patiently plugged in, and tuned into their own little world of music. Within minutes, they burst into “The Grudge,” the title track from their most recent critically honored, Lateralus [Volcano] album. With it’s slinky bass lines and tribal-drum opening, the band showed every droplet of their talent. When the voice of madman/genius Maynard James Keenan finally kicked in, each member of the audience became a standing mass of goosebumps. Ending the song with a scream that bent Keenan backwards as if he was lying atop a protractor, the glorious sounds stopped, and the audience feverishly awaited the next song. Still at this point, neither Maynard nor any member had addressed or even recognized the audience. They didn’t have to.

The second track dolled out was “Track #1” from their epic Aenima [Zoo] album. Backed by videos displaying some clips from their always-twisted videos, along with other cuts and graphics put together by guitarist Adam Jones (he used to work for Industrial Light and Magic), the beauty of their music now had a face. Even though that face may resemble something that Roman Polansky and Tim Burton would develop during bad acid trip. The visions during “Prison Sex” deeply hit the core meaning of the song, and became the band’s 5th member. They didn’t even have a second microphone on stage. They didn’t have to.

“Schism”, their latest single and a crowd favorite jolted the audience, as two hand-walking dancers come upon the stage, with their heads swinging back and forth like a pendulum (you really have to see the video for “Schism” to fully understand this one.) Maynard, now armed with a stockless guitar, belted out every note and lyric with unprecedented passion, and still he and his bandmates hadn’t even faced the crowd once. They didn’t have to.

After an experi-tronic sample-fest and a short drum solo, guitarist Jones stood on stage by his lonesome, delivering a 7-minute soliloquy spoken by his Les Paul. Tedious at times, it set up a great scenario. The head-bobbers from before were now dangling upside-down in front of the screens 30 feet above the ground. Harnessed by their feet, the pair contorted, spasmed and swung across the screen while the band ripped through “Parabola”. The videos and deranged dancers were Tool’s only props. They didn’t have one single blast of magnesium-fueled pyro, which is a staple in rock these days. They didn’t have to.

A more-than-serious vibe came over the audience as Keenan sang “Eon Blue Apocalypse”, with lyrics freakishly resembling the tragedies of late (“I’m still right here/giving blood/keeping faith”). Maynard's voice rattles around in your heads like the marble in a can of spray-paint. It was after this song that Maynard first spoke to the audience, quietly and calmly saying, “Thank you very much for coming.” This was the first phrase spoken directly to the audience. There were no ‘Are you ready to rock, Boston!”, or ‘Let me see your hands!’. The band didn’t pull any of the typical concert cliches. They didn’t have to.

After nearly 2 hours of bliss, and no song under the 6-minute mark, Maynard addressed the crowd on the current emotion-filled world. “Remember this feeling you’re having right now, and in the coming weeks, create something positive with it,” he urged, as the band finished up their set with a group huddle, and walked off the stage in a tidal wave of cheers. They didn’t even play their most popular song to date, “Sober”. They didn’t have to….

They’re the best live rock band in the world.


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