Publication: The Star-Ledger
Date: August, 2002
Mark Noonan (email@example.com)
Mark Noonan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
page: 11 title: Tool best appreciated at a distance author: Adam Heimlich The optimal location for appreciating Tool is height, distant seat at any of the band's concerts. The Tool fans near Continental Airlines Arena's stage might have gotten a good look at the band Thursday night, but all they saw was four nearly motionless men, concentrating in the dark From the back rows of the upper tiers, Tool's two hours of cyberage heavy metal sounded supernaturally sharp, and the whole of their stadium-scale, state-of-the-art light and animations show could be viewed at once. Under such conditions, a Tool performance quickly brings about the state of contemplative absorption that is the aim of its design. Tool's 50-foot-wide backdrop depicted a creature whose face was an amalgamation of optical illusions. Variances in the colors and angles of lights made it appear to change – and sometimes morph and writhe – throughout Thursday's concert. Computer animations (some directed by Tool's guitarist, Adam Jones) were shown on screens flanking the stage. Many played on themes of biology, as hapless 3-D characters had their skin stripped away to reveal layers of meticulously rendered tissue, muscle and bone underneath. The image is analogous to what Tool did to the power techniques of predecessors Metallica and Jane's Addiction. Any album by those two (both of which were formed in Los Angeles, as was Tool) would sound catchy alongside the younger quartet's 1996 "Aenima" and even more ponderous 2001 follow-up "Lateralus." The key songs of Thursday's set ("Stinkfist," "The Patient," "Triad," and "Lateralus") saw melodic conventions turned inside out for long, blanketing explorations, led by tribal drums guaranteed to grate the nerves of the non-mesmerized. Drummer Danny Carey was the show's human star – even though some of his beats sounded unlikely to have been produced by a four limbed mortal. In keeping with his habits, vocalist Maynard James Keenan performed on a rear stage riser opposite the drums, and stipped down to a bikini briefs once he warmed up. What came through better in the live setting than on Tool's albums is the way Keenan and Jones add more texture than melody to Carey's and bassist Just Chancellor's foundational rhythms. Sound engineer Vince DeFranco is Tool's secret weapon and a major talent. Thursday's opening act was Tomahawk – a band formed by singer Mike Patton (Faith No More) with guitarist Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard), bassist Kevin Rutmanis (The Cows) and drummer John Stainer (Helmet). The four pioneers of metal-informed post-punk entertained Tool fans with an ADD- friendly set, marked by hard-driving builds and bursts of thrash. The band's self-titled debut album came out last year. Wearing police uniforms and "guarded" by a pair of fat men in diapers, Tomahawk might have been mocking Tool's sense of theatrics, but the band members seemed happy to participate in the ongoing deconstruction of the music they used to play. Tool's set suggested that the process is inherently theatrical. Though the band is constantly compared to European "70s "progressive" acts, its inspiration is actually straight forward, bare-bones rock. It's a point Tool made more than once Tuesday night; first by bringing along Tomahawk, and then by opening its own set with a memorial- tribute cover of the Ramones' "Commando." The band's concern with underlying structures and hidden mechanisms, it seems, is only in keeping with the drift of the times. In the computer age, you either understand how systems work, or you're essentially helpless. Few perceive that divide better than people who grew up with it. Other generations' rock might have been liberated youngsters' bodies, but hip- hop does whatever's left of that job today. Rock's frontier has drifted into a confrontation with the power of mind. It's hard work if you don't get Tool, and fascinating if you do.
Posted to t.d.n: 08/17/02 23:52:36