June 15, 2017 - For Beatroute BC & Vancouver Weekly. Written review by Jennie Orton.
Everyone’s favourite tease showed up at Rogers to give us all a little tickle before vanishing again into the night; and we were all FINE with it. Tool has been dragging us all through a decade long wait for new material all the while coyly dropping breadcrumbs for us to sit and ration for weeks, sometimes months. But despite the frustrations, the fans showed up like a bloodthirsty hoard to hear the old favorites on June 15th at a packed Rogers Arena.
Crystal Method was given the short straw gig of opening for this band and unfortunately there was nothing that Scott Kirkland could’ve been done to wow any of us; we could smell Maynard in the building. It’s a bum deal to be the guy opening for the band who has been withholding from their fans for 10 YEARS! GOD! So despite the cross pedigree of most Tool fans falling into Crystal Method fan territory, they were a decidedly thin and distant crowd. But even the most antsy in our pantsy of us were pretty jazzed to hear “Name of the Game”. Shed no tears for Crystal though; he had a headlining gig a couple hours later at the Vogue where it was his time to shine out from under the looming shadow of Danny Carey’s kit.
The main event started fittingly with “The Grudge”. Though none of us were frustrated about the wait for the new album enough to not show up that night, more than a few of us have been vocal about our patience problems online. But as soon as we all saw guitarist Adam Jones’s bony shoulders in the shadows, all was mostly forgiven. Then singer Maynard James Keenan crooned about choosing to “let this go” and we were all like “mmmmmmmokay”. After all: if there were no reward to reap, we certainly would have walked away by now.
The set list was both well paced and topical, with songs like “Ænima” and “Opiate” taking on whole new meanings given the situation down south which Keenan referenced more than a couple times. The poetics of Tool’s music have aged magnificently, with many of the honest owning of human tendencies from 2001’s Lateralus pairing up well with the almost prophetic cautionary tales and angst from 1996 Ænima. When you consider that many of these angry warnings are more than a decade old, you can start to understand why Keenan has become such a grumpy bastard of late. Standing in his signature position in the shadows by drummer Danny Carey’s war machine of a drum kit, Keenan growled these now visible philosophies over the incomparable musical performance of his band mates; and THIS is where Tool wins us over again and again.
The progressive timing and flawless cohesiveness within it sets this band apart from their peers and from those attempting to wrassle the mantle today. The now iconic details within these multi-minute metal masterpieces take them from being plain old angry opuses and turn them into works of art. The first two guitar notes of “Parabol” which put you right in the desert of your consciousness while it writhes within the meat sack that is your body. Justin Chancellor’s rumbling and gurgling bass presence in “Schsim”, almost mimicking the relentless churning of viscera inside someone at odds with their existence. Those 7 indelible Carey kicks in “Third Eye”. Jones’ talk box solo in “Jambi”. Keenan’s “ long last vocal in “Jambi” which tangle with endless reverb like Gandalf and the Balrog: “stay out of my way!” Basically just everything about “Jambi”, really. These details punctuate the poetry like mushroom clouds.
Unlike a few cities before us, we got to enjoy a very apropos track off of 2006’s 10,000 Days, “The Pot”. An angry manifesto to a bloated and blind person of power, originally very certainly directed at George W Bush at the time of its release, now seems like it was written directly for the Cheeto in charge of our neighbors to the south. The single was large and in charge in a live setting, with video of a human figure ascending through an almost blinding inferno to either enlightenment, release, damnation, or maybe all three. It was gobsmacking; we were all just standing there with the visuals glowing in our eyes.
A Tool concert is a respite from the angst of waiting, from the strange random pulls of existence, from the frustrations of powerlessness. Yeah it was a greatest hits show, but with hits like these who needs enemies? I don’t know about you all but “I sure could use a vacation from this bullshit three-ring circus sideshow”. Was nice to gather, with no expectation, and “celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing”. And dat drum solo….