A Review of the Fall 1996 Tour

Date: October 25

From: Carmen Wiseman (carmen@fish.washington.edu) ************************************************************************* TOOL/THE COWS, 10/25/96, Vancouver, B.C. The PNE Forum is a medium-sized venue, basically a long, skinny field house with bleacher-type seats on either side. This means the acoustics have the potential for being horrible unless the sound mixers know what they're doing (about which more later). No one in any of the other reviews I've read so far mentioned the opening act. I wish I didn't have to either, but the Cows had a more significant effect on the course of the show than one would have liked. Frankly, they were among the worst bands I've ever heard, and most of the audience, which was dominated by overly testosteroned 16-year-old boys, seemed to agree. However, my husband and I, who have been in bands in the past, knew enough to politely applaud, whereas the rest of the crowd was not nearly as shy about voicing its dissatifaction. Along with the expected shouts of "Tool! Tool!," there were some incredibly rude comments. Some of the rudest came from a teenage mouth breather/target spitter behind us, and, as Maynard put it in "Eulogy," he sure could yell. We were in the bleacher-type seats maybe 30 feet to the right of the stage, so I'm sure Maynard et al. heard this kid's utterly disgustipated commentary. People in Calgary, Alberta (look it up on the map) probably heard it. [Yes, there is a point. Cool yer damn jets.] After the Cows slunk off the stage, there was a half-hour break. Immediately before Tool came on, video images appeared on a screen behind the stage. Since it was clear that people in our section weren't going to be able to see them, there was a mass exodus to the floor, including (thank dog!) the teenage target spitter. I didn't give a shit; if I'd wanted to see videos, I would have stayed home and watched TV. Tool's entrance was preceded by German industrial music along the lines of "Die Eier von Satan." The lights went dim and doomy, and barely came up for the rest of the show. Maynard was blue, as in the Blue Man Group of performance artists in New Yawk, except for a pair of patterned boxer shorts (he kept them on for the entire show, so I don't know if he was blue all over). The low lights made him look alternately gray and mossy-black. The rest of the band didn't have shirts on. I thought Justin might have a birthmark or tattoo, but after peering through my binoculars for a while, I realized that he was wearing some of Maynard's blue paint across his back and shoulders. The show started with killer versions of "Stinkfist" and "Forty Six & Two." Then Maynard said, "You guys are the rudest fucking audience to an opening band I've ever seen. We _like_ the Cows. We wouldn't have brought 'em if we didn't like 'em." Then he turned his back (which he did a lot) and launched into "Eulogy." From here on in, Maynard's performance seemed, well, subdued. I wouldn't say that he was phoning it in, but I didn't see any of the fevered energy described in other reviews. He didn't change any words, didn't really deviate much from his renditions on "Aenima." It's hard to say how much the reaction of that sea of subhumanity to the Cows coloured Maynard's mood, or whether he was just blue (no pun intended) to begin with, but I have a feeling that I didn't see the ultimate Maynard performance. Even so, the show was great. They did all the songs from "Aenima" except "H.," as well as "Prison Sex" and "Sober" (the only songs the Sea of Subhumanity truly reacted to, having seen them 6 zillion times on MuchMusic, the Canadian analogue of MTV) and, to my great satisfaction, "Opiate." After about an hour, Maynard annouced, "We've got one more song...but if you know anything about how we write songs, that could mean another hour." Then, an awe-inspiring version of "Third Eye" and "Aenema" as the encore, after which Maynard gave a little Rose Bowl Princess wave to the crowd and said, "We're going now, bye," and that was that. A couple of things struck me. First, the band is amazingly tight. With a few exceptions, what you hear on "Aenima" is essentially a live recording -- how these guys play and sound. I've seen a lot of major bands live that didn't come close to replicating their recorded sound and in fact put on very ragged, disappointing shows. Not Tool! Second, just what is the story with all these kids? I couldn't believe they were moshing to some of this material, but then, they'd mosh to the "Star Spangled Banner" at a ballgame. The thing is, the only Tool songs 99.9% of them know are the aforementioned "Prison Sex" and "Sober." They obviously don't know "Aenima" or "Opiate," they don't appreciate the lyrical subtleties or the polyrhythms, a lot of 'em couldn't find their ass with both hands and a map, so why do bajillions of 'em show up at Tool shows? Because Maynard says "fuck" a lot? Got me. I can understand why Maynard was so pissed, even though it happened to be at a show I paid 48 Canadian dollars to see. Dealing with hordes of cretins must be pretty annoying. However, I must say one small thing in the audience's defense: It's possible that the sound guy for the Cows had never mixed in a barn like the PNE Forum, which would have partly explained why the Cows sounded so muddy and awful. If Maynard and the guys are going to introduce audiences to bands that they like, they should make sure those bands sound decent -- at least, the audience would be able to know for sure whether the opening band sucks.