Friday, July 19, 2024

To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Tool

Tool continue their mind-bending odyssey touring the world in support of arguably the most highly anticipated album of the 2010s: Fear Inoculum. Tool are a band that firmly stick to their principles and create a highly controlled experience that needs to be experienced instead of seen. 

Night Verses opened the show and if it wasn’t already clear, the drummer is king at this show. Night Verses are a largely instrumental band in the same vein as bands like Scale The Summit or Slice The Cake. Every single member is a highly proficient musician but the rhythm section is clearly the focal point. 

Night Verses’ set was 30 minutes of proggy goodness full of whacky time signatures and extended-range guitar work full of hooks. It’s a lot more rhythmic than something like Animals As Leaders or Polyphia which may quell some of the concerns raised by those who heard the phrase “instrumental prog” and quietly said “goddamn it”. 

Tool are very specific with how they want people to engage with the show and banned usage of phones during the show and didn’t allow photographers to shoot the show. This allowed for people to feel the show and “be present” and “connected” as Maynard James Keenan said early on in the show. This will likely make this article more centred on my personal experience which is something I try to avoid but to quickly answer the question “should I go see Tool?”; absolutely, every penny is worth the experience even if you don’t enjoy it in the long run. 

The band came on to ‘Jambi’ which sounded like some kind of powerful spacecraft engine powering up with its syncopated guitar riffs accentuated by possibly the best rhythm section in music, Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey. The set carried on with ‘Fear Innoculum’ which featured the same visuals as the previous tour, which I was personally really happy about as it contained that same glorious drone footage of flowing lava and the sun draining into the ocean. 

It’s worth noting that while I’m a Tool fan, I largely have no idea what any of these songs or the videos are about: they just make me feel certain ways. My personal opinion is that Tool are a band that operates best when you stop focusing on internal logic and focus more on how these tracks and visuals make you feel. I was unable to take notes during this entire set and while that made writing this article harder, it allowed me to connect to a more cohesive and emotional experience. 

Two random fears of mine are lava (we’re standing above it at all times, how does that not freak you out?) and grey aliens both of which are prominently featured throughout this show. Grey aliens appeared constantly during the song ‘Rosetta Stoned’ and they always had this uncanny valley effect. There’s enough detail on them to be humanoid but still look nothing like us, I’m also greatly suspicious of how long aliens in pop culture have looked like this, no design is good enough to last as long it has which leads me to believe somebody knows something. 

Paranoid ramblings aside, Maynard brings out his megaphone for this song and recites the classic drug-fueled monologue from ‘Rosetta Stoned’ as he wanders around anxiously on this little platform at the back of the stage. Maynard James Keenan is largely regarded as a master frontman which makes him standing at the back of the stage shrouded in darkness all the more ironic. Half the time he sort of dances around like a character in a fighting game you haven’t unlocked yet which is strangely hypnotic to watch. 

It’s difficult for a modern audience to be connected in the moment during a show and without phones because of the need for social media validation and fleeting experiences but this rule was 100% necessary for a show like this. The visuals and lighting are very specific and require the audience to be completely invested in what they’re seeing. 

As someone with ADHD, the no phone rule helped turn what could have been a tedious experience mired by extended song lengths into a mind-bending experience that crossed the spectrum of time and colour. Masterpieces like ‘The Grudge’ and ‘Invincible’ were enhanced by all these videos and that drew attention away from the band themselves who would rather focus on playing the songs perfectly than have to be entertaining which may be a turn-off for some people in the audience. 

All of the songs from Fear Inoculum, with the exception of ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’ which was 5 minutes of hellish Crash Bandicoot music, were over 10 minutes long and that might be a struggle for some people who struggle to stay focused but the visualisers do a lot of the work to make 10 minutes feel instantaneous. The band played 7 songs in around 80 minutes and it felt like they’d only been on stage for 20 minutes, time truly meant nothing once they were playing. 

Many people have voiced their disappointment with the setlist. Fear Inoculum took up most of the set and mega classics like ‘Schism,’ ‘Prison Sex,’ ‘Forty Six and 2,’ ‘Parabola and Ticks & Leeches’ weren’t played which will be a disappointment to those who want to hear “the hits” but it’s Tool’s show, not yours. Maynard was the first to leave once the final note of ‘Aenima’ played and I did the same. I made my way towards the exit because we both have one thing in common: neither of us want to be around Tool fans any longer than we have to. 

To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to appreciate Tool. Their live visualisers are completely unique and elevate an already elevated experience that’s worth the price of admission. The Internet has made Tool fans something of a punching bag, even I’ve taken some shots at them, but it’s clear why they’re so passionate. Tool are a special band in virtually every way, the musicianship, the live show, the commitment to the craft and creativity, it’s all there in spades. 

In closing, Tool are more than just Linkin Park for people who listen to the Joe Rogan Experience. Your partner owes you for making you see Girls Aloud so make them take you to see Tool. All of this was good-natured ribbing, we love Tool fans just as much as Tool.

Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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  1. This is the most cringe title I’ve ever seen for an article. I’ve been listening to Tool for 20 years and I’m happy to say that I’m of average intellect. Stop with the cringe gatekeeping.

    • Tool is a freakin band, no IQ required you either like there music or dont, crazy time signatures doesn’t make it a masterpiece, Mike Portnoy covered Pneuma in abouyan hour, I love Danny Carey and m a drum guy but could he nail dance of eternity that quick? I love the easy listening of tool , the polyrhythms, and there down to earth attitude so don’t build them up so people can knock them down, PLAY LISTEN ENJOY ,, nuff said

  2. Tool is very much a musical Rollercoaster. Its a vibe almost that transports you to a dark space. There are odd time signatures, shifting imagery and at pummeling drum rhythms. Musically complex,, Its a mood lifting experience.

  3. I absolutely love that this band continues to evolve, and refuses to create the same old, same old. They have their nuances specific to them, and not the same generic, cookie-cutter songs that get shuffled around and repurposed onto a new album. It’s interesting that some people can enjoy something, and then just arbitrarily deem it to be “rubbish.”
    I hope Tool continues to challenge themselves and their audience. I’ll be a fan that thoroughly enjoys the ride until it stops.

  4. Considering this commenter is in the UK…you must understand the American “systems” to really connect with Tool…so you can understand “the why”….Tool are sentiment genius…as they have warned us all about the perils of these greedy, power mongering, sown right abusive world leasers….to understand how fed up America s (USers) really are with the current people in charge…a small group of psychopaths want war….and it is NOT Putin!!!

  5. I’m dumb as fuck and I understand everything they have created,the algorithms, the math,the acceptance of the cosmos,literary beasts and catholicism, death of family,the shit fucking system running all aspects of this governed world.doesnt take a godamn high iQ to understand what they are doing,you fucking Philistines.

  6. “Five minutes of hellish crash bandicoot music” is probably the greatest written sentence in all of literary history. Old man and the sea? Get the fuck outta here. Tale of two cities? Miss me with that shit. Pure comedy that would give Shakespeare a rug burn, as he literally rolled on the floor, laughing his, um… well, you know the rest. All after a quick introduction to the zeitgeist of the night, because what does a 15th century playwright know of pinball machine clatter vs modern home video game system affordability?


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