Publication: Houston Chronicle
Date: October, 2001
Michael Staats (Mslash68@yahoo.com)
Michael Staats (Mslash68@yahoo.com)
page: title: Tool set becomes canvas for macabre images author: MICHAEL D. CLARK With time, some bands create styles that develop cult followings. Others simply seem to have joined the occult. Sunday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion it was hard to tell if nihilistic metal collective Tool had crossed the line. Most of the sold-out crowd of 17,000 who bundled up for the brisk outdoor weather appeared hopeful. James Nielsen / Special to the Chronicle Tool's lead singer, Maynard James Keenan, performs in silhouette at a concert Sunday in The Woodlands. On a stage featuring contortionist body walkers, performance artists dangling by their ankles and a continuous video stream of macabre physical and tactile distortions, Tool's two- hour set became the canvas for the images. Singer Maynard James Keenan led the band into positions on stage. The musicians became the percussion-heavy, bass-led feedback orchestra for the theater of the uncomfortable. Of course, it was only unsettling to the uninitiated. Those who began following Tool in 1993 with breakout video Prison Sex, right up to already-platinum, new album Lateralus are used to the sight of miniature artists' mannequins with snapping teeth, or gray flesh creeping on unsterile bathroom tile. Like A Nightmare on Elm Street dream come to life, Tool's concert gained form and dimension between the three large video screens and faceless performers. To a hum resembling the deep moans of Tuvan throat music, the group opened with The Grudge from Lateralus, creating a musical love child of early-Pink Floyd LSD trails and crunching Metallica guitar. Guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey were little more than motions in a dark room on the stage, but their percussion thump and guitar carnage were haunting. Positioned in front of one video screen, Keenan was an animated silhouette, like a member of the Blue Man Group who had given in to his dark side. The scavenging guitar loop that holds latest single Schism together signaled one of the few radio-friendly songs featured in an elaborately composed set of noodles. Past hits Sober and Prison Sex were both omitted in favor of a more complete listen to the band's live interpretations of Lateralus. If the plan was to de-emphasize familiarity in order to emphasize the visual spectacle, then it worked. A claymation movie of a dirty finger limply feeling the underside of an eyelid played slow and grueling behind Keenan's trademark helpless moans on Stinkfist. On Undertow, an animated man with skin of sand and guts leaked and loped across the video haze. Opium was a trip through a cartoon toilet grosser than the scene in Trainspotting. It was told from the point of view of a discarded kidney. The show was revolting and fascinating, which made the live performers even more creepy. During Schism, a pair (man and woman?) covered in tight silver suits head to toe, walked as if on animal haunches and seemed unable to control involuntary head-bobbing. Their motion defied all rules of bones and ligaments. Toward the end of the show the two grabbled to the top of a movie screen on rope and hung head-down, like sides of beef, while quivering in unison for nearly 35 minutes. Trip- hop opening act Tricky was a guest on stage to chant for the dancers' pain. By the time of finale Lateralus, featuring footage of naked, floating humans being threatened by serpents, the terror was relatively calm, compared to all else that had been seen. If complex and beautiful movements of heavy metal are possible, Tool has discovered them. Like Malcolm McDowell's Alex in A Clockwork Orange, however, nothing resembling those images can be associated with anything but Tool from this point forward.
Posted to t.d.n: 10/30/01 13:19:45