It’s been six years since the Tool sonic tsunami last hit our shores but even more astonishing is how fans, globally, waited a staggering 13 years for new music. Last year, the Californian quartet finally dropped one of the most anticipated albums in recent rock memory in Fear Inoculum, an album which topped the U.S. Billboard album charts in its opening week to the detriment of pop sensation Taylor Swift. The announcement of an Australian tour in February thrilled the masses of Aussie Tool fans so much so a Monday night show at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena sold out in hours, creating demand for a second show the day after. For those that got a chance to secure their tickets for the Monday night, the stage was set for an incredible night of primordial rhythms and trance-like compositions, transcending the audience into another space and time. A strict policy of disallowing the usage of cameras or filming on phones was respected throughout most of the show with only a few people ejected from the venue for doing so.
The industrial roar of Author and Punisher created the right ambience for Tool to come on stage and play the title song from the band’s latest opus of an album, a mysterious veil surrounding the band as projected visuals of skulls animated the mood and atmosphere of the performance. Tool’s aesthetic is perfectly suited for an innovative multimedia show and they know how to execute it better than most touring acts. But never mind the visuals, the craft of writing songs with such subtlety and aggression is really their forte, their brazen progressive rock musicianship, as well as their dirty hard-edged post-grunge guitar work, is why their uncompromising sound and vision is so appealing to the populace.
The setlist comprised a well-thought-out balance of new and old songs, ‘Parabol’, ‘Parabola’ and ‘Schism’ had the original music videos as their backdrop which restated their strange and creepy but highly imaginative interpretations of the songs. The arresting visuals matched the intensity of the performance and each individual on stage was in sync with each other. Bassist Justin Chancellor kept bobbing his head, totally transfixed in his playing whereas frontman James Maynard Keenen, with his mohawk and punk outfit, decided to not be the centre of attention, pacing back and forth like a caged tiger on top of the higher elevated stage where Danny Carey was frantically smashing his drumkit. Adam Jones was the calmest on stage focusing on playing the highly emotive guitar solos and staccato riffs that glue everything Tool do sonically.
Photo: Maria Boyadgis
After a short intermission, drummer Danny Carey appeared on stage alone for a ritual of sorts, playing his drum sticks on a huge gong and then jumping back on his drum kit to blow people’s minds with a solo that involved electronics, looping and an incredible amount of playing virtuosity. As the gig came to a closure, Maynard, slightly disgruntled but recognizing the eagerness of many people in the audience, gave everyone permission to use their phones to film the closing song, ‘Stinkfist’.
The Qudos Bank Arena was truly turned into a debauched temple with strobe lights and stunning graphics behind the high priests. It was a moment to get lost into Tool’s dark, trippy and kaleidoscopic world. The only downside of the night was the omission of the song ‘7empest’ out of the setlist, a song which just won the band best metal performance at this year’s Grammys.
Tool is still as mysterious as ever after all these years of making music, even a long hiatus in recording new songs didn’t leave fans disinterested. Even if you weren’t a Tool fan in the band’s heyday, you can appreciate their unique approach to writing compositions. It’s worth noting that especially in this day and age when the music industry is concentrated on singles and trends, Tool has inspiringly risen to the top by doing exactly the opposite. They have a new generation of fans who are under the age of 30 and as Maynard reminded everyone, some of their younger fans weren’t even sperm when they wrote the songs of their debut album.
Tool’s Australian tour continues tonight with a second show at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena. See dates and ticketing details here.
Gallery: Tool – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney 17/02/20 / Photos: Maria Boyadgis