The band uses their instruments as surgical tools at this point of their career and was absolutely flawless in the delivery of sonic bliss to those in attendance.
There is something to say for a lead singer that gladly hides in the shadows while spotlights shine down upon his immensely talented bandmates. Maynard James Keenan would probably rather sing along from his dressing room, tour bus, or even home. It’s all ‘don’t look at the man behind the curtains’ though. Your attention is of course drawn to where someone clearly doesn’t want you to look.
Tool returned to St. Louis via the absolutely packed to the gills Chaifetz Arena. The show seemingly sold out before tickets went on sale, but somehow the diehard faithful found their way into the church for a night of 90s’ goodness.
Openers 3TEETH played their part as opener. Their debut album may have been released in 2014, but their sound comes straight from the days of Sehnsucht era Rammstein and fellow LA artists Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral . Lead singer Alexis Mincolla looks and sounds the part; leather pants, mustache, circular sunglasses and a Mohawk to top it off. The band will get back in the studio after the tour wraps up and it will be interesting to see what direction they head in the future.
Primus strode upon the stage next to the usual calliope, “Clown Dream” from the Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure soundtrack. Claypool and co. usually lean a bit jam heavy for me, which was still the case but it was great to see the band play what seemed like a ‘casual fan’ set. They were backed by two large screens that displayed video ranging from psychedelic elephants on trampolines during “Southbound Pachyderm” to claymation that encapsulated so much of 90s’ rock videos.
Closing their short set out with “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” brought the crowd to an absolute high point. Claypool funked his way around the stage effortlessly with his signature walk and guitarist Larry LaLonde soloed away over the groove drummer Tim Alexander laid down.
Tool arrived on stage with drummer Danny Carey leading the way, as he did much of the evening. Bassist Justin Chancellor and guitarist Adam Jones then followed as the band opened with a driving cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”. Keenan marched onto his usual riser at the back in full SWAT-style armor using a megaphone for the entirety of the track.
The band uses their instruments as surgical tools at this point of their career and was absolutely flawless in the delivery of sonic bliss to those in attendance. Chancellor and Carey handle most of the physical emoting to the crowd as Jones focuses intensely on the often intricate guitar work. Keenan spoke more often than usual, getting the crowd riled up at the beginning by claiming, “this doesn’t sound like St. Louis,” then after a louder cheer, “that’s more like it.” Later in the evening before diving into “Schism” Keenan reminded the crowd St. Louis has recently been under water and to “be careful what you wish for.”
The stage was immense and constantly unfurling. After the first song the backdrop fell revealing a large video screen, which later in the night added projection screens to its sides, taking up every bit of free space along the wall of the arena. The only newer music heard on the evening was an instrumental track the band has been working on tentatively titled “Descending” which received a warm reception from the crowd but clearly is still in the works and not quite cohesive.
After a brief intermission, Carey returned for a drum solo that completely used all aspects of the stage, with lasers and projections focusing on the heptagram hanging in the middle of the stage. Following the intense solo was “Sweat” which, the band only recently started playing again for the first time since 1998, brought things full circle. Keenan wished the crowd a safe drive home, promising to return soon (likely sooner with side project Puscifer) and closed out with an explosive version of “Stinkfist”.
Given that not much new or interesting has come from the Tool camp of late, it was more than safe to label the evening as a nostalgia trip, which is perfectly fine for a band that might only come through town two or three times a decade. If the goal of this tour was musical inspiration for new music, that’s even better. Sometimes you need to grease the gears to get a machine to produce. Fingers crossed it worked. | Bruce Matlock