A Review of the Fall 1996 Tour

Date: November 11

From: miller@qni.com Review November 11, 1996 TOOL Memorial Hall Kansas City, Kansas It was Kansas City's turn to be Tool'ed on the band's tour behind its AEnima album. After a brief, hilarious, and thoroughly inane set by openers The Cows (the highlight of the set was when security guards stopped The Cow's bugle boy/vocalist from doing a headstand in front of the stage left PA speakers), fans were treated to a long, continuous drone of Tool-ish keyboard meanderings. Then finally, thankfully, the lights went down. The audience, most of which undoubtedly had not read any setlists on this website, were expecting their favorite songs. Would they open with a big smash hit like "Sober" and play it just like it sounds on the video? Or would they open with "Cold & Ugly" like they always used to? The answer soon came in the form of furious, primal drum pounding and roller-coaster-like guitar slides up and down the sonic spectrum. "Third Eye" was kicking off the Tool show with Maynard James McKeenan - painted blue on the right half of his body - chirping the intro to this non-anthem while the crowd stood, unsure of what was up. Many, if they did have the album, may not have had the fortitude to have learned this, AEnima's final epic cut. No more evidence of their lack of acquaintance with the song is needed other than the two times the audience erroneously thought the song was over and began applaudly prematurely. "Third Eye", easily the most difficult and challenging Tool song to listen to and to perform, came off without a hitch and was so intensely emotional it was hard not to wonder how a band could pour so much out, so soon in a show. The crowd's thirst for familiarity was quenched when the band jumped into the next song, "Stinkfist". While Tool certainly is not known for sing-along choruses, the 3,000+ crowd could be heard joining Maynard in the song's confession of insatiability, "It's not enough...". "Forty-Six & 2" showed off the band's tightness. "Prison Sex", complete with the added verse during the interlude (lyrics began with a repeated plea to "Show me something"), was an unsurprising hit with the audience. "Eulogy" began without some of the slow buildup showcased on the album, but Maynard did reproduce the intro's "kazoo" sound (which is done by singing into a blow dryer-shaped toy of some kind, apparently). "Eulogy", like so much of the new material, was greeted at the outset with unfamiliarity but answered at the end with enthusiastic cheers and applause. "Jimmy" was introduced by Maynard as the sequel to "Prison Sex". He explained that "Jimmy" was about getting through the abuse of "Prison Sex". Maynard introduced "Cold & Ugly" by dedicating it to Dale Carrey (evidently a relative of Danny's, who hails originally from a small town near Kansas City) and advising the audience to buy Dale a drink if we should see him. "Cold & Ugly" stood out in relief from the rest of the night's set as the only song done significantly slower than the album version. Pre-AEnima fans know that Tool used to play all songs much slower live than on record, but at this show songs were executed at album-correct speeds - except for this one. I can't help but wonder if replacing Paul with Justin on bass ended Tool's slow-tempo tradition (problem?). "H" came next, complete with its off-with-your-head mid-song rave-up. The evening's pinnacle of hilarity came, though, during "Hooker with a Penis". Maynard, who said the song was about what happens when you point fingers, was saluted by several index and middle fingers throughout the song. But during the second half of "Hooker", a body builder wearing a spiked leather mask and a matching black thong strutted onto the stage to pose and flex his muscles for us. This went on for several minutes, until the song mercifully concluded. After that moment in music history, Tool needed something to bring the audience and themselves back into focus. Nothing better for that than the screeching, echoing sounds of Adam Jones coaxing sustained waves of sound from his smoky green Les Paul and MESA amps while Justin and Danny build a groove around a motif, a motif that doesn't reveal itself to everyone at first, but eventually could be mistaken for nothing else except for the chugging rhythms of "Sober". For some reason, though, Adam and Maynard dropped out for the second verse, letting Justin and Danny keep the song alive. Maynard then said they were about to play the last song - from their first album. "Opiate" was another sing-with-Maynard favorite, in spite of the creative but impressive liberties he occasionally took with the melodies. After "Opiate"'s conclusion, Maynard took a moment to explain a few things about it. I can recall Paul introducing "Opiate" as a hymn to "our sweet savior, Satan" at an Omaha show in 1994. I've never expected Tool to rest on cliche's, and it seemed to me that a cloven-hoofed reference like Paul's was as hackneyed and trite as a King Diamond lyric. Maynard did much to dispell my confusion that night with his comments. I was lucky enough to speak with Maynard before the show about Buddhism which, like lacrymology (one of Maynard's favorite areas of philosophical study), deals with the nature of human suffering. Maynard said Buddhism and lacrymology are essentially the same, and that he even owns the book on Buddhism book I was offering to give him. He struck me yet again (I'd met him once before this) as a very wise and enlightened person, not one to rely on Black Sabbath-era imagery to entertain people like Paul seemed to in Omaha. His comments that night - and comments from people I have since talked to that know Maynard much better than I do - further convince me that Maynard is not just another angry young man. Maynard had the guts to tell the audience that "Opiate" was NOT just about how bad Christianity is as a religion. He told us that Christ, like Gandhi and the Buddha, came to teach us the same valuable lessons, such as to be cool to each other because we ultimately are each other and to choose compassion instead of fear. Maynard said "Opiate" was about those people who came after these great teachers and ruined their messages by trying to force those messages on others. Even though he was not speaking to a college class on comparative theology or to a church congregation, the audience roared in agreement. Amazing. Then came "AEnema", closing the show. Before we knew it, it was all over. Of course, everyone played incredibly well, the sound was very clear, the visuals were compelling, and Maynard sounded better with each song, but that's not the point, I don't think. I think the point is that some, if not all, of us came away from the show with an appreciation for how good a band can be both in and out of its own music. While some bands just want to stir up the mosh pit and sell T-shirts - nothing wrong with doing either and Tool is good at doing both - Tool goes the next step and gives you something to think about on the way home. That is a gift audiences rarely receive and that musicians rarely can give.