by MIKE CHAIKEN
The two couples that sat me pretty much summed up Tool’s concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 21.
Beside me, couple no. 1, the male half stood, along with the rest of the crowd, as Tool ripped through its set. The female half, though sat through the show, one of the few who sat in my section. She had a slight view of the band from her vantage. But she had only a passing interest. She looked as if she wanted to be somewhere else. The man occasionally glanced down at his partner, placing his hands on her shoulder. But his primary focus was on Tool. And he was in no hurry to leave even though his significant other was bored.
In front of me, a woman danced and swayed as the band cranked through its set. She developed her own choreography as Tool weaved its own brand of metal meets prog-rock. Her male partner, standing beside her was enjoying Tool but his partner’s passion for the band’s music out trumped his own. She clearly was in ecstasy being in the same space as Tool.
And that pretty sums up Tool. You either get it or you don’t.
In this respect, Tool reminds me of several other bands whose fans have great passion for their sounds and non-fans barely take notice. I’m thinking of the Grateful Dead, Primus, Rush, as groups with a similar type of fan base.
And like those bands, the members of Tool Danny Carey on drums, Adam Jones on guitar, Maynard James Keenan on vocals, and Justin Chancellor on bass are absolute masters of their instruments.
The instrumentation of Tool weaves a hypnotic pattern of notes and tricky time signatures, accentuated by the emotional vocals of Keenan.
Tool is singular from a musical point of view. Although the passionate fan base may reflect other groups, Tool’s sound is not like any other group who is on tour right now.
The group is on the road promoting its latest album, “Fear Inoculum,” which is their first in 13 years.
The passing of time has not redirected Tool’s sound. It’s an extension of its efforts from the mid-2000s.
You could say it’s a bit of a throwback. However, since the group is singular, it’s also evidence that the group is staying true to its own vision.
Tool, however, is not a group you gravitate toward if you are looking for a “show.” The group barely moves on stage. Keenan stands in the back of the stage on a platform, barely illuminated. The brightest spot is reserved for the drummer, Danny Carey. Jones spends his time with his face down over his instrument, sometimes with his hair dropped over his eyes. Chancellor will take the occasional majestic pose. But that is the closest the group comes to a rock and roll strut.
The lighting is dim and moody. The focus, instead, is on the video screen behind the group. The projections are either mobile abstractions or disturbing animated dramas featuring tortured humanoids.
Tool’s show was a definite experience. If you have a grounding in metal or prog-rock, as I do, Tool’s performance was a fascinating journey through a band’s singular vision.
Killing Joke opened for Tool. The classic British post-punk band demonstrated a sound that clearly set the stage for what became known as industrial rock. It was an eerie set. Like Tool, Killing Joke provided a sound dripping with passion.
For most of the fans Nov. 21, though, as passionate as they were for Tool, there was a great deal of disinterest in Killing Joke’s set. There were more people in line for beer than there were people catching Killing Joke. It was their loss. Killing Joke may have decades under its belt, but they still have the same edge they demonstrated in their youth.
I give Tool at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 21 four out of five stars.