As the digital banner wrapping around the American Airlines Center plugged upcoming shows from Miranda Lambert, Celine Dion, and friggin Oprah, the irony that the sell out crowd on hand for a decidedly anti-pop music group did not go unnoticed. Having delivered their first album in 13 years, Fear Inoculum, last August and finally making their discography available on digital and streaming platforms, the band has been riding a wave of popularity. Of course, over the decade plus long album drought, the band never stopped touring; nevertheless, everyone attending this Wednesday evening concert were giddy with excitement.
With a reputation for unconventional stage set-ups, the band didn’t disappoint. Singer Maynard James Keenan performed on one of two platforms on each side of drummer Danny Carey, at the back of the stage. Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor took more typical positions in front and below Carey and Keenan at the front of the stage. A semi-transparent curtain wrapped around the stage for the first few songs and various psychedelic and band-art related images were projected onto it, still allowing the band members to be visible – or at least partially visible. Throughout the night, Keenan performed mostly in the shadows for anyone not close enough to the stage to actually see him. The band has always been known for emphasizing visually imagery and art alongside their music, so it should come as no surprise that their lights and digital projections accentuated each song and the overall performance.
The bands set drew heavily from the Fear Inoculum album. Opening the evening with the title track, and also playing “Pnuema,” “Invincible,” and Danny Carey’s encore drum solo “Chocolate Chip Trip.” Needless to say, it was the classic material that got the biggest rise from the crowd. “Ænima,” an extended version of “Schism,” and the jaw-dropping one-two punch of “Part of Me” (from the bands debut EP, Opiate) and “Forty Six & 2.” Other fan favorites, like “Jambi” from their 2006 album 10,000 Days and the dual “Parabol” and “Parabola” from 2001’s Lateralus were highlights of their set.
It should come to no surprise that Jones, Chancellor, and Carey delivered an absolutely flawless performance. Each of them are incredible at their respective instruments. That said, to say that Danny Carey stole the show would not be an understatement. His drumming is as mesmerizing as any front man antics or showmanship. Speaking of front man, Keenan’s voice sounded as strong as ever. Still able to hit notes he performed on recordings 20-years ago is an incredible feat. It would be kinda cool if you could actually see the guy from the cheap seats, but mystery has always been a part of Tools game.
Whether you’ve embraced the Fear Inoculum album or consider it self-indulgent navel-gazing, you should make every effort to attend the shows on this tour. The bands audio and visual combination is peerless and provides a truly unique concert experience.
– J. Kevin Lynch (words); Robb Miller (photos)