As Tool say their goodbyes this evening, Abba’s “Dancing Queen” is piped around the arena. It is – and I will accept no debate here – one of the worst songs ever made. It is the embodiment of music for people who don’t like music (like Queen but not as bad, obviously) it is music for drunk people at Christmas parties.

In short, it couldn’t be further from the four men on this stage if it tried.

In many ways, tonight is the story of how a band, without an album in five years, with nothing approaching a hit single, no presence in the mainstream (how many of you said you were going to see Tool tonight to people you work with to be asked who they were?) not even a chorus, no singalongs, no orchestrated clapping. And yet, the same band can stick 10,000 people in this arena for two years running.

Ain’t nobody does it, like Maynard James Keenan and the boys.

We are, reckons the singer – you can’t call him a front man because he stands high at the back prowling around like a caged animal – “going on a journey” for which we “need to be present” and that means no mobile phones. Whether you think this is pretentious bullshit, or ridding an unnecessary distraction rather depends on your views (I’ll let you guess mine….) But there is no doubt that the policy is integral to a Tool gig.

And can you even call what they do a gig? Is it not a performance?

They are mesmerising, they are hypnotic, they are utterly glorious. And that is just “Jambi”, the opener.

Around half of the set is comprised of songs (again are they songs, or pieces of music?) from the “Fear Inoculum” record which as it came out in 2019 is relatively recent in Tool world. The title track is nothing short of stunning.

The quartet’s only concession to the normal arena bombast, is a stunning light show and video wall. The use of it, like their music is unique. As “Rosetta Stoned” plays, the lasers shoot everywhere, and in many ways, the visuals are like a fifth member of the band.

And what of that band? Never mind anything else the music doesn’t sound like anyone else either. The way Danny Carey plays the drums, or Justin Chancellor organises his bass, almost hula-hooping around an invisible prop as he does, or Adam Jones does the riffs is unique. As much as you don’t want to use that word, it is.

Then amongst it all, is Maynard James Keenan. There’s no discernible reason that what he does compels so much, it just does. There is nothing about him that screams “arena rock singer” Yet we are where we are. Literally.

“Pneuma” is an astonishing piece of music. It is everything that is so, so good about Tool writ large, and “The Grudge” brings Part One to a close in a kind of crescendo,

After the interval comes another of those moments that you either like or don’t. “Chocolate Chip Trip” is already weird on record, takes on a new dimension here as Carey carries on like a mad professor capturing the sounds on his synth. The rest of the band joins, before some semblance of normality – and that word and Tool should not go together – is restored with “Flood” and its sea of confetti.

“Invincible” might well be a metaphor for the band themselves, 34 years in and totally uncompromising and unapologetic, but “Stinkfist” (which we are allowed to take pictures of) is worthy of ending any show.

And what else can you say? What have we just seen? How would you even categorise this music? The truth is that nobody really can say for sure. It will mean different things to different people, and people will respond to it in their way. Indeed, such was the assault on the senses that took place here, it might take days to fully appreciate and process the event.

All MV can say for certain right now is, that for the second year running Tool delivered a masterpiece. Of how to do what it is they do. And whatever that is, no one else comes close to replicating it.

More From Author


Popular Posts

Latest Gig Reviews

Latest Music Reviews


Band Of The Day