By my own admission, I have been to some weird Tool shows in my nearly thirty years as a fan. Some of them have been weird thanks to the band, and some have been weird, because well I’m (not a creep), a weirdo. One of my last shows before the world shut down was Tool at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, complete with an army of relentless rent-a-guards practically assaulting fans due to the notorious Tool cell phone policy. I’ve no issue with the policy, just the way it is implemented. Tonight was by far the weirdest Tool show ever for many reasons.
The show started simply enough heading over to The Chase Center, having our car checked by drug sniffing dogs and heading into the show. The merch selection was pretty tight, but I was bummed the posters had been sold-out for hours before the 7:30 start time. I am rarely this extra early to a show and I was sure I might snag one. Oh well, maybe next time.
Still, it was a pretty tame beginning. I managed to get to my seat, randomly the exact same section for my last two shows in this venue, which is gotta be improbable odds. I notice the usual assortment of Tool geeks in attendance and I was hopeful for a fun night. The lights went down at Blonde Redhead came on. I was pretty excited as I had not seen the band live since there early days at a shoe at the now long gone Don Hill’s in New York. Pretty much the same vibe with incredible chanteuse Kazu Makino on vocals, guitar and synth and the multi-instrumentalist twins holding down the rest. I feel like they might have been a four-piece with back in the day, Amedo and Simone Pace but have been a power-trio fro a long time now. Keeping the talk to a minimum, the group sailed through their emotional, airy set of deep cuts and classic tracks from the bands’ history. An incredible band and a great choice for an opener.
As the arena filled you could feel like it was about to go off. This was clearly the first show back for a lot of people, as if they saved that last cookie in the sleeve for a special occasion. Coming on stage in the near darkness, the faint lights increasingly revealing the stage set-up behind the sheer curtain.
A Tool show is always a sensory overload, but rather than blitz you all at once, the band is careful to ramp this experience up slowly, as if dosing the crowd a little at a time. As ‘Litanie contre la Peur’ began and gave way to ‘Fear Inoculum’ the crowd was sufficiently hyped up. It was so great hearing the newer material against the older songs in the setlist at my last Tool show, and tonight would be even better with some cuts I had never heard before.
As for the weirdness… here is where it escalated to a near breaking point for me. There are always some chucklefucks that we need to cope with at every show, especially in the pandemic era. I try hard not to harsh anyone else’s mellow, but sometimes shit gets ridiculous. I summed this up in a tweet after the show, but considering we had our car checked out by drug sniffing dogs, patted down and wanded, the amount of drugs, buffoonery, and bad behavior I experienced just in my immediate few rows around me, I was pissed most of the rest of the show. I might have walked out if it were any other band. Chase Center is a great venue, but you guys have some work to do.
Tool show checklist:
✅Ppl wacked out on major drugs
✅Witnessed a drug deal, complete with venmo payment, and a sample bump.
✅Saw a guy pass out and fall down two rows of seats
✅That one asshole with the cellphone light on the entire show
✅Show was still amazing
— Ghost Cult Magazine (@GhostCultMag) January 17, 2022
Still, the band brought me right back into the show by playing their early hit ‘Sober.’ From the first bass notes chopped out in a kind of morse, the entire arena felt it. They rarely play the big hits these days so I felt very fortunate and it was a great performance of the song. Naturally, the audience flipped out with many around me expressing disbelief at what we were seeing and hearing. Following this right up with ‘The Pot’ the band was flexing their musical chops hard. We were off to a raging start!
The second surprise of the night was ‘Pushit!’ The Ænima deep cut is always welcome and is really a tour du force of vocals, dynamics, drama, and more. Adam Jones and Justin Chancelor were damn perfect in their interweaving guitar and bass parts respectively. At this point the incredible effects and staging started to come to life along with the music, as if the scene was a blossoming, pschedelic flower. The band has always been deliberate in their production design: be it videos behind the stage, or laser lights shot out onto the crowd, it was a lot to take in at all times from here on.
‘Pneuma’ followed and was one of the best songs of the night, and arguably the best track on Fear Inoculum. The crowd seemed to agree, singing the chorus as if this was one of their most revered songs. This gave way to ‘The Grudge’ – another quasi hit song. The band said little and let the music do the talking for them. For a performer 30 plus years into his career, to hear Maynard James Kennan pull out all the stops and still wail on these older tracks is astounding. He also adds nuances and subtle new parts, likely to keep it interesting for himself, as much as the audience.
For all the praise deservedly heaped on Danny Carey for his incredible mastery, it’s moments such as ‘Right In Two’ who he fully owns as an artist and performer. The track was a great cap to the mid-point of the night, and the visual matched perfectly.
Next came ‘Descending’ – another newer fan-favorite, and the raging ‘Hooker With A Penis,’ yet another great Ænima track. For an album that is 25-plus years old now, these tracks hold up as well as anything in the bands’ catalog, even if they evolved into a different sounding band at that point in their timeline.
After a needed intermission in which people continued to act a fool around me non-stop, only Danny returned to perform his epic drum solo ‘Chocolate Chip Trip.’ Personally, this gets better every time I see it and I hope it never leaves the set list.
Then in a total surprise, the band performed yet another newie – ‘Culling Voices.’ As close to an unplugged Tool song as we are ever gonna get, even Danny played acoustic guitar while the entire band kum-bay-yahed it up in a little hippie circle seated at the foot of the statge. It was a pretty magical sight to behold.
Closing with some quips about the crowd taking out their cell phones and devices finally, the band closed the show strong with ‘Invincible’ putting a cap on the night with an over two-hour set time. This was a lot of fun whether this was your first show wit the band or 40th.
Buy tickets to see Tool on tour here: https://toolband.com/events/