Date: June, 1997
page: 24 title: Tool & the Equinox Festival author: Murray Engleheart Still wallowing on(?) the success of their second album, "AENIMA", Tool visited Australia to play just a handful of shows. Massive! went along to see them in Sydney and recalls the days when Maynard James Keenan and the band used to talk to people! "Work this fucking record in this territory or I'm going to send you a big, steaming shit for your desk." That, goes the story, was Tool's Maynard James Keenan's attempt at winning friends and influencing record company people during the band's visit for 1995's Alternative Nation festival when the "Undertow" album was thir sonic beacon. Judging by the excitement surrounding the band's new album,"AEnima", and their return visit earlier this year, someone took the little guy at his word. Not that music as powerful and empowering as Tool actually requires any hard sell. The effect of their music recalls an old television documentary that attempted to prove that the body's nervous system is altered in some, no doubt debilitating, way by loud music. The guinea pig in the experiment was given a pair of headphones with Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Rabies" album - granted, not the most extreme of choices - blasting through them. The results were what every rock junkie already knew and what the researchers were horrified to prove: music of a particular intensity and volume does have some physical effect on the body. In fact it must. That's the whole idea. It isn't called rock and thus implying motion, for nothing. Tool are carrying the torch these days for the incision free process. "The magnets and electricity that goes through all that stuff definitely alters the energy field around your body," vocalist Maynard James Keenan says. "Just like children are dying of weird cancers that have their schools set up next to major power lines. That's documented stuff." At the Equinox Festival in Sydney over Easter the band put that body altering process into practice physically. Various members of the outfit had been curiously wandering around the backstage area all afternoon and indulging in the odd bit of lighthearted screwing around. Like the tiny Keenan sparring with the band's towering drummer Danny Carey. Come showtime though they became Alien Gods of thunder. Guitarist Adam Jones had his bare chest and face painted blue, bassist Justin Chancellor was in a similar camouflage of brown and Keenan had his body daubed both blue and white. "It's just about making the show as much one visual experience as possible," says the paint free Carey. "It just makes the lights and the whole energy thing blend into one a lot better. I think having three or four individuals standing on stage kind of pulls it away from that. That's the reason we do it. "We're just making the thing fit together where people are hit by the impact of an entire show. I think it just makes the whole thing a little more cohesive." The body chemistry surgery process began with Jones. "let me go out and try out my gear," he said to a technician before the band emerged from the wings of the stage. and for the next few minutes the axeman conducted a private soundcheck for the 15,000 strong crowd who had been chanting for the band. They thought it was just the opening part of the show. And in a way it was. Jones slammed out monstrous slabs of ampage before seguing seamlessly into "Crawl Away".For the next 45 minutes Tool were a heavy-as-all-fuck metallic form stripped bare of special effects, by the numbers riffing and blah, blah, blah. It's smart, hard music and almost "progressive" in it's approach like veteran English virtuoso heavy weights King Crimson. And it's the sound of full-brain function - you can almost smell the smouldering nerve endings - with dazzling technical abilities which sweep away the early broad comparisons to Soundgarden(Whafuck?) and more precisely the Rollins Band(Hmm). Keenan who took a few opening flash snaps of the masses at times uses special mics to get that untuned transistor radio effect on his voice. After a while the heat of the lights and the sweat from his Troll-on-crack gyrations smear the divider of blue and white on his back. An old set list tapped up at the side of the stage lists the band's metallic hellster epic "Third Eye" which they often use to bludgeon a disrespectful audience in to submission as "Turd Eye". Either way it did'nt get a showing at this gig. "We go out on stage and the crowd is always different," says Jones. "So if the crowd is lame we're still the same, if the crowd's great, really getting into the band we're still the same. We just go out there and play really hard. You're almost blind to the audience you're so wrapped up in the music. It's like you're jumping hurdles, you're not thinking about the crowd watching, you're thinking about getting over the next hurdle and getting to the finish line. You know what I mean? It's theraputic. i don't want to be like an idiot and say, oh yeah, it's our therapy. But you just get out, you become blind. a lot of people go, 'Maynard does'nt blink' and that's why he doesn't blink because he's just in his own world while he's singing. It's like this big white sheet goes over your face and your adrenalin's going so hard to play as good as you can. There's nothing like playing through a P.A. either, all those seventies' bands were going 'I am the God of Thunder!' because they get in these venues where you play through a huge P.A. and it's awesome man. Nothing better to thin out your blood." Save for Keenan's rave about the true meaning of Easter from the standpoint of some Eastern religions and his "invitation" To attend the band's show at the Hordern Pavillion several days later-at which he delivered such classic deadpan pisstakes as "Sydney(cheers)My stepfather's name is Sidney"- there is no stage talk. There's nothing to detract from the colossus of sound. After the title cut from the "AEnima" album(What title cut?) the band walk off and head straight back to their dressing unit. An encore isn't considered for a second. A cleaned up Chancellor-he of the horned hair- reappeared during Midnight Oil's set. He positioned himself at the back of the stage with a six-pack of beers and a bottle of scotch. A security guard asked him to move on for some reason and he gathered his alcohol collection protectively as if it were the last batch ever to be brewed. He wanted no assistance carrying the load. "We wanted something very powerful," says Jones. "But very open and simple and just create a reaction. Most stuff is just so thrown at you and fed and keeps you intrigued the entire time and i think that element of not giving you enough but still being really powerful has that same kind of effect. It keeps you wanting more. You know what I'm saying?" Absolutely!
Posted to t.d.n: 04/12/98 02:17:29