the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

Date: August, 2001

Transcribed by
UrQuattro (

 title: Tool Digs into its dark obsessions
author: James Sullivan

Tool digs into its dark obsessions

James Sullivan, Chronicle Pop Music Critic 	 	Monday, August 13, 2001 


Claustrophobia is an unlikely thrill. That hemmed-in feeling, however, is exactly what 
makes the music and imagery of the progressive metal band Tool so persuasive. 

On Friday, in the first of two sold-out shows, the band reduced the roomy Berkeley 
Community Theater to a brooding crawl space. Its audience, one of the more rapt in 
rock, was only too happy to follow into the dark. 

The Los Angeles quartet, an indirect descendant of precise metal bands such as 
Helmet and Metallica and alternative innovators like Smashing Pumpkins and Nine 
Inch Nails, is one of the few contemporary acts that can claim both the artistic license 
of cult stardom and the luxury of commercial success. (The band, falling somewhere 
short of household-name status, still debuted at No. 1 with its most recent album, 

Singer Maynard James Keenan is a hard rock philosopher, a seething tangle of uneasy 
thoughts in (on this night, anyway) vulture fringe and a thick stripe of face paint. 
Experiencing Friday's show was like being locked inside the head of a man for whom 
even the simplest human transactions are agony. 

Keenan meddled with the typical rock-band configuration, sharing the shadows with 
drummer Danny Carey and leaving the forefront to bassist Justin Chancellor and 
guitarist Adam Jones. The latter, playing a murky-toned Gibson, brought plenty of new 
ideas to the old-hat school of heavy rock guitar playing. 

"Not as many hippies as last time," muttered Keenan, peering out at the crowd. "That's 
very encouraging." 

Keenan sings much as he talks, deliberately and quietly. The tension is ever-present, 
and Tool's sullen, suitelike songs eventually give way to an inevitable caterwaul. 

Anatomy is a particular obsession, and Friday's show featured relentlessly disturbing 
video images -- rotting men of clay and sand, surgery on eyeballs. Nude women were 
captured in unflattering situations, looking less alluring than sickeningly vulnerable. 

The band put heavy emphasis on "Lateralus," its fourth album, opening the two-hour 
set with the exotic "The Grudge" and closing with the not-quite-title track "Lateralis." 
Keenan sang of things that fall apart and hopeless efforts to put them back together: 
"Rediscover communication," he barked on "Schism," articulating each syllable as if to 
force the thing done in spite of the long odds. 

The song sounded an awful lot like the long-running prog-rock group King Crimson, 
and it was no surprise. That band, led by the adventurous guitarist Robert Fripp, 
opened the show with an hourlong set of its virtuosic, mostly instrumental celebrations 
of the grotesque and overpowering. 

Introducing "Thela Hun Ginjeet," Fripp acknowledged the support of the Bay Area's Les 
Claypool, who has been playing the song with his Flying Frog Brigade. "This is for you, 
Les," he said. 

Later it was Keenan's turn to pass around the acknowledgments. Crediting Fripp for his 
guest performance on the fan favorite "Sober," he made an admission. "King Crimson 
is pretty much who we've ripped off over the years. 

"Don't tell anyone," added the singer, now nearly naked and hunched over his 
microphone, in a rare moment of levity. "Especially them." The hearty laughs he drew 
seemed as alien as Keenan evidently feels, almost all the time. 

E-mail James Sullivan at 

Posted to t.d.n: 08/13/01 20:48:48