TOOL @ Selland Arena, Fresno CA 11/22/02
Tool has always been one of those dark alt rock bands that I’ve admired over the years, especially Danny Carey’s elegant and complex drumming. But to call Tool an alternative rock group borders on insult. They’re much more than that, but it’s hard to categorize them. For certain, their music is dark, aggressive and complicated. In another review I described the music and performance of A Perfect Circle, Maynard James Keenan’s other group. Some would consider APC a ‘light’ version of Tool. With Tool you get more metal, weirder arrangements, even weirder and sometimes frightening subject matter, VERY weird and sometimes morbid music videos, better stamina (some tracks clock in at 8 minutes or more) and more proficient musicianship (especially Danny Carey on Drums). This tour has been strange. The band is supporting their Lateralus album, which is mind blowing and shockingly impressive. However there are fewer memorable songs. Another way to put it, the songs and the album aren’t as accessible as the material on Ænema. This tour is even less accessible than the new album itself if you can imagine.
Fellow MP.com forumer dbfield and I made our way to Selland arena after getting lost in freakin’ Fresno. Actually, we drove in from Orange County to see this show during a break from school. We made our way into the arena as Meshuggah was closing their opening set. I like Meshuggah and wished I could have caught their act. Tool took the stage to a deafening applause from the Fresno crowd. I give the band credit for doing something different and making their music the focal point of the show, not necessarily the performance or production. It was so dark onstage, very few light sources were used, making the stage shadowy and cavern like. Use of video screens and pre-recorded footage was minimal. The light show was very basic but effective, used to augment the show, rather than provide a gimmicky distraction. Jones’ and Chancellor’s positions were at the front of the stage, stage left and stage right. The strangest part of the stage set-up was in regards to Carey’s and Keenan’s positions. The singer and drummer were side by side and toward the back of the stage, somewhat behind Chancellor and Jones! Both Keenan and Carey were on raised platforms. Keenan was dressed in an all black outfit complete with a hood. His face was painted black save for streaks of fluorescent orange. It was as if Keenan melted into the dark cavernous space of that venue.
There was little in the sense of a “show” or spectacle. The focus was on the musicians, producing their music onstage with little fan-fare or theatrics. It made for an interesting but dull concert experience. There was little connection with the audience, however a Tool fan would argue that the music itself was the only connection needed. At one point Keenan addressed the audience and said “Why don’t you put your cell phones away and join us in a night of music,” further emphasizing Tool’s philosophy of music performance without distractions. The concert itself was a strange event and it made me confused more than anything. What left me truly disappointed was the set that night. Tool played a relatively short set this tour. Around 13 tracks were featured, however many of which were long, clocking in at 8 minutes or more. And there were noticeable absences from this set, most notably “Sober,” “46&2” and my personal favorite, “H.” While exiting the venue, I ran into a classmate and Galaxy Theater alumnus, Christine. She asked “hey so how did you like the show.” I gave a half-hearted “it was ok.” She said “just ok!?” Die-hard Tool fans probably would have kicked my ass. So I probably won’t be seeing them again, but damn they know how to play their instruments (don’t laugh).
Cold and Ugly
Eon Blue Apocalypse