Live Review: Tool

Monday 6 May 2013

Live Review: Tool

Friday May 3
Allphones Arena, Sydney, NSW

From a man recently quoted saying "we did live shows to sell the records. Now we do records to sell the live shows," the announcement of Tool's arena tour of Australia was a welcome surprise for fans of the Californian prog-rockers and ubiquitous vocalist Maynard James Keenan. Sans new album, single or even a repackaged deluxe edition reissue (these guys don't even sell their music on iTunes), Tool's arena tour is a violent reminder of the progressive sound that has remained impervious to trends or copycat newcomers.

Friday night's sold out concert - the first of two at Allphones Arena - saw the three-time Grammy winners indulge the crowd with highlights from their last three albums. Tracks like Vicarious, Schism, Ænima and Stinkfist (dedicated to Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman) were all delivered with guitarist Adam Jones’ incredibly demented animated videos on four screens. His obsession with reptilian humanoids, fetus’, eyes and the idea of veins as a separate entity drew the crowd in making them indifferent to the band’s stagnant stage presence.

Keenan was, of course, situated at the back, dark sunglasses on, swaying side to side like a praying mantis, singing his caustic lyrics drenched in fetishism and religious iconography through his ‘pipe bomb microphone’. Guitarist Justin Chancellor spent half the set facing Keenan, and Jones – hair fashioned into pigtails – stood vigil to stage left. Through the impromptu guitar progressions, quick decisions about who would start which lick between Jones and Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey’s tribal, primal solo where he dictated the arena’s heartbeat and introduced Jambi, it was clear Tool are more preoccupied with sonic perfection than keeping the crowd's eyes on them - the back screens a pointed distraction to daze us in a way they've never wanted to.

“Thank you very much you've been wonderful,” Keenan spoke for the second time in an hour-and-a-half. “Goodnight.”

The arena booed in disbelief for a few anxious seconds before the percussive drill of Ænima kicked in and an out-of-place disco ball dropped from the ceiling. Needless to say, the extended live version was a highlight, closely followed by final track Stinkfist – a song once renamed Track #1 for corporate America and MTV worldwide. Singing lyrics like “Knuckle deep inside the borderline/This may hurt a little but it's something you'll get used to,” Keenan swayed and drummed his thighs while silver confetti soaked the venue.

Though it’s been seven years since their last offering 10,000 Days (named after the number of days his mother was left paralyzed before her passing), and two years since they headlined Big day Out, Tool clearly have over 40,000 reasons to return to Sydney whenever they choose.

- Poppy Reid