By Ed Spinelli
Taking the stage at the Fiserv Forum to the ten-minute opus and title track from their most recent album Fear Inoculum, the stage design was both minimalist and complex. Singer Maynard James Keenan eschewed the typical ‘frontman’ position, moving between risers at the back of the stage and becoming, in many ways, part of the show’s landscape, which saw back-lit pyramids, storms, and other—appropriately—forces of nature.
And as for the performance, there may not be a tighter, more finely-attuned unit than guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey (who himself must surely among the Bonhams, Moons, and Chamberlins of the world, as the electro-percussive solo “Chocolate Chip Trip” showcased). Even without the obvious benefit of Keenan’s menacing croon, the trio would be a savage unit, as the epic “Pneuma” proved mid-set – a hypnotic pitch-and-swirl meditation that saw Chancellor and Jones trading crunchy chords backdropped by a fiery-red volcano eruption that seemed to spill over the stage and into the crowd.
Also of note was the welcome lack of cell phones on display, per the band’s request and vague threat of removal from the venue. The insistence on no cell phones is a trend we can only hope will take hold with more artists who have the guts to put it out there. The lack of cell phone lights and screens peppering the arena as has become the norm forced all attention to the band’s stunningly curated visuals and song craft, though Keenan did acquiesce for the night’s final cut, “The Grudge.”
Keenan made a deal with the crowd that they could record the final number, “Forty Six & 2” “But no flash and no lights or I’ll come down there and kick you right in the vagina, okay?” Indeed, just about every phone in the FF appeared, though it was tough to be distracted away from the building crunch of the song’s outro, and with it, the band’s almost wordless exit. In many ways, the whole show was the antithesis of arena rock; Keenan’s blonde-mohawked presence and no-bullshit reputation is larger than life, so there was no ring-master pandering to rile the crowd as one might expect at a show of this size. But Tool know exactly who they are and so does their audience; there was little need for forced grandiosity.