Tool – concert preview

Tooling Around
B-Sides takes a Maynard-related road trip
By Jaime Lees
Published: June 20, 2007

Tool can do no wrong in the eyes of its fans. In fact, the band inspires so much respect from its audience that it’s nearly creepy. Tool gets away with things that would cause lesser bands to be written off or completely forgotten: There have been huge gaps between album releases (up to five years), infrequent tours, high ticket prices and band members who have been known to play in the dark and barely address the audience.

But all of this somehow works in Tool’s favor. Far from feeling slighted or ignored, fans are supremely excited when an album comes out and are willing to pay as much as necessary for the rare live show. And instead of regarding band members as egotistical jerks, fans view them as mysterious and humble. This kind of blind worship is part of what makes the Tool experience so amazing.

The quartet has always been fairly hard to categorize. Metal, prog, alternative, hard rock — all possible genres only partially describe the band. The qualities of the typical “Tool sound” are just as nebulous as the members themselves. The lyrics are dense, mostly intelligent and sometimes inaccessible, hitting on such diverse topics as history, religion, numerology, witchcraft, death, psychology, math and uh, prison sex.

Last Saturday while performing at the tiny Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Tool gave the kind of performance every fan hopes to witness. The crowd instantly responded when the band opened with “Jambi,” a fast, powerful burner from its latest album, 10,000 Days. “Jambi” was followed by older favorites “Stinkfist” and “Forty Six & 2.” Another stand-out song was “Schism,” which was played differently from the studio recording, as it sped up near the end and highlighted drummer Danny Carey’s superior skills. Live, “Schism” is a song that always seems like it might explode at any moment, but on this night it was held together by the enchanting bass guitar work of Justin Chancellor. Adam Jones rolls his fingers down the guitar frets with ease, making the heavy and bewitching “Vicarious” seem effortless. During “Rosetta Stoned,” singer Maynard James Keenan encouraged the audience to clap along while he moved in his trademark lurching dance, perched on top of a riser in the back next to the drums.

If there was any complaint about the show, it was that Keenan’s voice came across as a bit restrained (although this might just have been an effect of the poor sound quality in the venue). It’s also possible that he was just saving his voice for the slow, quiet portion of the show. Keenan sang low and soft for “10,000 Days,” a delicate and beautiful song rumored to be about his devotion to his mother during decades of ill health (and subsequent death), and her strong religious faith in the face of daily suffering. During this interlude, the audience sat down and watched — not out of boredom, but out of reverence. Many were moved to tears.

This Friday at the Scottrade Center, expect an outpouring of faith and devotion. Tool will be opening the doors to its sold-out church, and St. Louis congregants have been waiting patiently. — Jaime Lees 8 p.m. Friday, June 22. Scottrade Center, South 14th Street and Clark Avenue. Sold out. 314-241-1888.