Publication: The Grand Rapids Press
Date: March 5, 1997
John Serba (email@example.com)
John Serba (firstname.lastname@example.org)
page: title: Tool: Kalamazoo Review author: John Serba Tool, to make a comparison, is like a multi-dimensional drug. The band's music has the power to both heal and alter reality. This idea seemed to be the common thread of Tool's live show at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo Tuesday night. Whether the 8,000-plus fans who attended the sold-out concert realized this or not is questionable, but their reaction to Tool's hour-and-a-half set was overwhelmingly positive. However, Tool doesn't seem too concerned about alienating fans, evidenced by its first song, the decidedly anti-commercial "Third Eye." The trippy, 13-minute epic started the show with subtlety and restraint. The song, which is apparently about the discovery of newfound awareness, gradually piled up layers of psychedelic noise, eventually peaking with singer Maynard James Keenan repeatedly bellowing, "Prying open my third eye!" Actually, save for the bizarre images and videos projected on two screens above the stage, Keenan was the show. Clad only in boxer shorts and boots and painted blue from head to toe, the singer contorted his sinewy frame to the obtuse rhythms of the music. Keenan, who lived in Scottville for part of his life, and even attended Kendall College in Grand Rapids, often appeared to be hypnotized by Tool's dense sonic barrage as he sang. "Some people think that I'm from Michigan," Keenan quipped sarcastically between songs. "But they're wrong. I'm actually from Brazil, and I moved here a year ago. I don't even speak English." Obviously, despite his knack for writing lyrics revolving around serious themes, Keenan still has a sense of humor. He even dedicated the disturbing, and occasionally violent, song "Crawl Away" to "the poop in kid's pants." During the songs, though, intensity reigned. "Forty-six & 2" and "Eulogy," both from "AEnima," the band's latest album, found guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor weaving a tight sonic rug around Danny Carey's technical, and occasionally insane, drumming. Jones prefers to create moody atmospheres--the soft, yet dark intro to "Eulogy," for example--instead of banging out simplistic power chords or showing off fretboard calisthenics. Smack in the middle of the set, Tool played a trio of songs that proved to be the best of the evening. The introspective "Jimmy" was followed by the slow, crunching "4 Degrees" (from the 1993 album, "Undertow"); "H." came in tow, and found Keenan "recalling all the times I have died...I don't mind." All three songs encapsulated Keenan's ability to be menacing and fragile, his voice a near-mumble one moment, and soaring into a snarling rage the next. Tool did play their two biggest radio hits, "Stinkfist" and "Sober," but with some added changes. "Stinkfist" received the best crowd response, but the mosh pits slowed down when the band added a couple of new riffs to the song. But what really slowed down the movement on the floor was the 15-minute intro to "Sober," which found Jones and Chancellor making eerie, squelching noised from their instruments as Carey pounded out some tribal rhythms. The new intro caused a mesmerizing effect on some, while others glanced at their watches, impatient for the song to start. A slower, heavier version of the title track from Tool's first EP, "Opiate," followed, to which many in the crowd sang along, the lyrics touching upon Karl Marx's idea that "religion is the opiate of the masses." "AEnima" was the final song of the set, which is appropriate considering its apocalyptic theme. "Learn to swim," Keenan advises California residents, warning them of the impending submersion of the state into the Pacific Ocean. The song also finds the singer ranting about society: "Fret for your prozac and fret for you contract...it's a (expletive) three-ring circus." The only negative aspect of Tool's performance lies within the fact that the band's complex, intelligent message is lost to such a large crowd. Tool's intensity seemed spread too thin within the huge walls of Wings Stadium; the band would be much more effective in a smaller venue, which would enhance the claustrophobic aspects of the music. Opening the show was the Melvins, who played pretty much non-stop for 40 minutes. The band's chunky, grating sound was like pure sonic mud through the stadium's sound system. A throbbing, low-end rumble was just about all that was decipherable, making those in the crowd with earplugs thankful for their foresight. The Melvins' sense of humor managed to seep through the muck a little bit, but for the most part, the set seemed like a lost cause.
Posted to t.d.n: 05/08/97 22:17:49