red lights


Sonic boundaries fall

Allstate Arena
Rosemont, IL
Sept. 18, 2006
Tool Tool Tool

Story and photos by Phil Bonyata

Tool's place in '90s alt-rock history is secure with it's introduction of bleak landscapes of underground metal to the snub-your-nose school of art rock. They helped define that decade's penchant for choking and point-your-finger-first angst. Lead singer Maynard James Keenan has also had success with his side project A Perfect Circle. Everything that he touches turns to gold- including tonight's performance.

Holding court at the sold-out Allstate Arena - Tool fans were bracing themselves for what they hoped to be a monolithic barrage of sight and sound. Maynard yelled into the mic "My throat hurts and my vagina itches" (apparently sick enough to cancel tonight's Madison performance). The band opened their set with "Stinkfist" off of Aenima. The song's textural beauty was centered in it's heavy rhythms and sonic distortion. The stage was minimalist in design except for the long rows of 5 foot video screens spanning the entire stage directly behind the band. The avant garde animations (which is a staple on many Tool videos) helped create an overall uneasiness that set the heart racing to their signature stuttering and heart pounding drums and bass. Drummer Danny Carey somehow modulates every rhythm into a subset of sound. This is where the foundation of Tool's music lies. It's what sets the tone for the ominous danger inherent in the band's music.

"Jambi" and "The Pot" let's it's odd chord progressions fly all over the place, while Maynard's haunting voice was as strong as ever. While he's a very engaging and charismatic performer Maynard feels it necessary to perform at the back of the stage ( in many cases facing away from the audience while he performs) and prefers to have little spotlight shine on him. It's still seemingly an artfully pretentious approach to performing. On "Schism" Maynard questioned his emotional dualities with searing vocal conviction. Also featuring crafty double time on the normal bridge melody. "Rosetta Stoned," "Wings For Marie" and " the intensely atmospheric "10,000 Days" rounded out the opening set.

The highlight of the show was "Lateralus." It's hypnotic rhythms and organic creepiness bled all over the stadium. Closing out the stellar performance with "Vicarius" and "Aenima," Tool have let it be known that the dark boundaries that they have helped define - still need to to be explored even further.

Tool Tool

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