Date: July, 2002
page: title: TOOL Live author: Miles Gunter Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, Dallas, TX July 23, 2002 I wasn't gonna go see TOOL. I wasn't gonna pay fifty bucks. Hell, I don't like paying more than twenty to see anyone. But I said that the last time they came through and regretted not going. Given the state of the world and the looming finality that every day brings with it, I decided to relent. Fifty fuckin' bucks for this shit- it had better be good. Usually I like to get pre-loaded before a show, but since I had to navigate through uncharted waters, sobriety is the rule- at least until I get into my seat. Since my buddy K is riding shotgun, he didn't have to worry about that- and is henceforth ripped to the gills. In a heat-induced rage, I'd destroyed my car CD player the day before, so I scrounge for old mix tapes down in the cracks- anything to make us not think about the fact that the AC is broken. We rock out to ACID KING, some live FANTOMAS cuts and PEEPING TOM demos. It's hot as fuck as K and I roll up to the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, taking our place in line to get reamed for parking. For big venue shows, I'm used to parking lots that look like the vault in RAIDERS- but this shit was tiny. Like the lot for an animatronic pizza parlor. I ditch my wallet, recheck the status of the joints in my sock, check for lighter, keys, ID, cell-phone, money. We're good, so with agua in hand, we roll down the way past the scalpers. All of them look like extras from LIVE AND LET DIE. The scalpers gouge away as we jaywalk across the one-way, past a parking lot under construction. It's the kinda spot the location scouts for HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES have wet dreams about. We turn the corner and step under the overhanging rim of the 70's style arena. It's cheesy, to be sure, but not nearly as big as I anticipated. Maybe these nosebleed seats won't be so bad, after all. Religious protestors flank the massive throng of kids- the majority of them wear black t-shirts advertising mainstream-oriented rock bands. Finally, the doors open and the kids swarm through the doors. They are so hungry for TOOL. You can see the hunger in their eyes. This has taken the place of X-nas and birthdays. We step into the air conditioning, past the metal detectors and up to merchandise booth for $10 stickers and $30 hats. It makes me sick, but part of me would do the same thing in their place. K gets some water for his continuing battle with cotton mouth and we head into the arena. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that it's not as big as I anticipated. The band will not be dots - we'll have a clear view of everything! Feeling victorious, we take our place on row Q and pass the time people-watching. The fat girl in the row in front of me initiates drama relentlessly- she can't let a minute go by where she isn't verbally upset about the location of her cell phone. A WASP-y chum takes a seat next to her with his white collar wanna-be porn star girlfriend. She's a little too bony for the cutoff shorts, but K doesn't seem to mind. I don't see a lot of men and women but I do see a lot of children and people in arrested development. Sadly, no strange women take my breath away- there will be no need for heroics tonight. The lights go down and TOMAHAWK takes the stage. I'm a big, big Mike Patton fan- mostly of his post- FNM work- MR. BUNGLE, FANTOMAS and TOMAHAWK. T-hawk takes the stage in a fury- Patton is dressed as a police officer, complete with nightstick. They tear into the sexy bounce of "Flashback" and I roll out the first joint of the evening. I tell K not to worry. We are so deep into the seating section that there's no way the pigs and security can do fuck. None of them are even bothering to come up into the balcony- which suites me just fine. TOMAHAWK was the thing that really sold me on the show- I saw them last fall and it's obvious that they've tightened up a lot since then. Patton juggles vocal styles unlike anyone else in modern music. K figured all that shit is done in the studio- and it is, with most performers. But not Patton. He does it all with a furious panache that is his own. One moment he's got the lungs of Sinatra, the next moment, hilarious, echoing, shrieky mad-scientist shit. But it is an acquired taste and most of the rednecks aren't having it. By the fifth song "God Hates a Coward," the audience is making with the big boos. So Patton takes it up a few notches- working his mad-scientist panel for all its worth. He is a living comic book- every moment filled with dynamicism. I laugh and laugh as he piles on the truth- panel after sonic panel. The boos are even louder, so Maynard comes out looking like an evangalist from "V"- and works the crowd up into a frenzy with his Christian shout-out shtick. It's funny and the TOOLheads go insane, talking about it nonstop for the rest of the show. I envy them their big, easy emotions. After TOMAHAWK, I head to the head. Surprisingly, despite the line, no one has resorted to shitting in the sinks. Maybe Fort Worth isn't so bad after all. The hallway lining the arena is mobbed. I feel like I'm in Kuenascatsee on `ludes- or however the fuck you spell it. Getting a drink means standing in line for a half-hour so I grab some water from the fountain and head back to my seat. The place has really filled up now- all the boys try to look like EMINEM, all the girls try to look like BRITNEY SPEARS. I guiltily join two jarheads in persecuting some kids a few rows ahead with homemade TOOL shirts. The shit is totally airbrush MJ Designs- probably got their mom to do it. I make some jokes and they laugh a little too easily- no matter- I'll soon feel the guilt of my light evil. The lights dim and the sonic fog begins. Huge twin video monitors flicker to life, illuminating eyeballs cast in blue flame- they are framed in the sawblade-style ring of eyes. Guitarist Adam Jones works an eerie keyboard concoction as the other band members take their places in the teal darkness. Singer Maynard James Keenan is a profile silhouette, lit crisply against an immense, lit drapery. The lights create a color I can't quite place- equal parts blue and gold and red. They open up with "Sober," which is naturally met with thunderous approval by the herd. Not exactly "Hooker with a Penis," if you know what I mean. The monitors show the video through a layer of psychedelic black and white hypnotic, strobing vortexes. Next is "Flood"- yeah, now we're talking. They skip the long-ass intro (a shame), but it's nice to hear, all the same. Not a lot of variation, but the pounding intensity you'd expect- the ritual begins. The drapery drops, revealing an immense psychedelic mural showing a big red, veiny frontal face streaming off into two profile faces. These two faces bridge into two blue watery skull images which feed back into two fetus images. Typical death, rebirth imagery- but beautifully designed and lit throughout the songs. They tear into "The Grudge"- the first track off Lateralus, with an awesome confidence. Maynard stands atop a projection screen, singing about Saturn's ascension with an urgency and a truth that is reflected onto all of us. He arches his back to the heavens, delivering the final primal scream that echoes off into the sky. Now the planets have begun to take notice. They follow with "Stinkfist" and "46 & 2"- classics off their 1996 album Aenima. You can hear the crowd booming out all the lyrics, but none as loud as the Hispanic-Asian kid that has taken root next to me. He jackrabbits around in a nicotine-induced fit, running his hands through his hair in ecstatic bliss as Maynard shakes his ass in the shadows. Electricity crackles along the ceiling and monitors to the sound of (-) ions. "Good evening, Texas," says Maynard. He wears a black leathery suit- like a minimalist Cenobite. On closer inspection, it looks like part of his face is painted- maybe the left-hand side- but it is hard to see clearly. The audience hungrily devoirs his every word. They would follow him into battle, no question. Glitters sails down from the ceiling during "Schism." Some of the video imagery stuff is kind of boring. Most of the stuff is the same animation looped over and over, but when they start blending the images together it makes for much more successful, trippy-ass shit. A tentacle-headed dude wearing a suit wiggles his tentacled arms, as white, powdery intestinals contract at a slower frame rate - while a gold sun frames them both. We suck down the second joint- or at least, I do. I hold the hits as long as I can for maximum effect. True to their name, I find myself reflecting on my own life, my own actions, my own inactions, my beliefs, the old beliefs I don't have anymore, the amount of money these dudes are making, all of the nuances of this moment etc. Maynard strips down to bra and panties. He tells us that we remind them of why they do what they do. It's rehearsed but genuine. The lights go down and the video monitors show a grey-skinned bald humanoid. His face swims away from itself at an angle and back again. The bass drones up into a solid wall of sonic fog. It is loud- uncomfortably so. The sound works its way inside you. As the bass intensifies more and more the face rips further and further away from the head- back and forth like rubber. The bass drones up even louder- making me feel every molecule of by being as the face tears away. The bass explodes as the skin tears away violently revealing the skull. It tears itself away and comes back at lighting speed. This interlude goes on for about ten minutes. It is the true test of the audience. TOOL's way of saying- ok, you like our songs, but what about this? It's pure self- indulgence and I love it- easily my favorite part of the show. It is pure, crushing ritual and it's not long before several of the people around me get up and leave. Next is "Parabol," "Parabola"- two of my favorites off the new album. Five murals descend from the ceiling showing Alex Grey's different layers of the body- starting with the skeleton, muscles, chakras, energy body and finally pure cosmic energy. But lo! The final mural is stuck- could it be TOOL's criticism of the herd? Behind them is a new Alex Grey mural: a vortex of eyeballs spiraling into infinity. A gigantic six- pointed star descends above Maynard. If it fell, he would be cleaved in two. The kids behind me can't figure it out. Six points? What the fuck? Two gigantic cellular masses float in midair above the band. It's all very impressive. The "Parabola" video plays along with the song. I don't watch TV, so I hadn't seen it. It's spectacular! The final, droning Earth style riffs resound as the man in the video transforms into the Alex Grey animation- stripping away the illusion of physical reality and resulting transcendence. I'm reminded of my daily yoga practice and the efforts I make to stay connected to God each and every day. It's a beautiful moment- truly inspiring. Words fail me. They play "Opiate"- another case of catering to the crowd. So many other tunes I'd rather hear, like "Cold and Ugly," "Jerk Off," "Jimmy," "Undertow" or "Eulogy" - oh, well. They continue with the ambient "Disposition," Eastern- influenced "Reflection," and jam-session "Triad": sadly, no "Ticks and Leeches." As the audience roars for more, the band members huddle as I try to use my budding psychic powers to make them play "No Quarter." However, I still have much to learn about mind control, since they opt for "Lateralus" instead. Once again, the band delivers the cosmic goods. After, the band members join in a group hug. Drum god Danny Carey is gargantuan! He looks damn near 7 feet tall and all muscle. He whips a cymbal out into the audience. It hurls to the side and into the security area. A total misfire but he's still a badass. Maynard throws out water bottles and disappears quickly before the others. Eerily postured guitarist Adam Jones waves out a single alien swipe. A great set but nowhere close to August, `97 when they did play "No Quarter." It was like watching mountains fucking - at least to my younger self. There ya go.
Posted to t.d.n: 07/31/02 01:00:32