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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: The Star-Ledger

Date: August, 2002

Transcribed by
Mark Noonan (mark@apple2.com)


  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