the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Houston Chronicle

Date: October, 2001

Transcribed by
Michael Staats (

 title: Tool set becomes canvas for macabre images 

With time, some bands create styles that develop cult 
followings. Others simply seem to have joined the occult. 

Sunday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion it was hard to 
tell if nihilistic metal collective Tool had crossed the line. Most 
of the sold-out crowd of 17,000 who bundled up for the brisk 
outdoor weather appeared hopeful. 

James Nielsen / Special to the Chronicle 
Tool's lead singer, Maynard James Keenan, performs in 
silhouette at a concert Sunday in The Woodlands.  
On a stage featuring contortionist body walkers, performance 
artists dangling by their ankles and a continuous video 
stream of macabre physical and tactile distortions, Tool's two-
hour set became the canvas for the images. 

Singer Maynard James Keenan led the band into positions on 
stage. The musicians became the percussion-heavy, bass-led 
feedback orchestra for the theater of the uncomfortable. Of 
course, it was only unsettling to the uninitiated. 

Those who began following Tool in 1993 with breakout video 
Prison Sex, right up to already-platinum, new album 
Lateralus are used to the sight of miniature artists' 
mannequins with snapping teeth, or gray flesh creeping on 
unsterile bathroom tile. 

Like A Nightmare on Elm Street dream come to life, Tool's 
concert gained form and dimension between the three large 
video screens and faceless performers. To a hum resembling 
the deep moans of Tuvan throat music, the group opened 
with The Grudge from Lateralus, creating a musical love child 
of early-Pink Floyd LSD trails and crunching Metallica guitar. 

Guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer 
Danny Carey were little more than motions in a dark room on 
the stage, but their percussion thump and guitar carnage 
were haunting. Positioned in front of one video screen, 
Keenan was an animated silhouette, like a member of the 
Blue Man Group who had given in to his dark side. 

The scavenging guitar loop that holds latest single Schism 
together signaled one of the few radio-friendly songs 
featured in an elaborately composed set of noodles. Past hits 
Sober and Prison Sex were both omitted in favor of a more 
complete listen to the band's live interpretations of Lateralus. 

If the plan was to de-emphasize familiarity in order to 
emphasize the visual spectacle, then it worked. 

A claymation movie of a dirty finger limply feeling the 
underside of an eyelid played slow and grueling behind 
Keenan's trademark helpless moans on Stinkfist. 

On Undertow, an animated man with skin of sand and guts 
leaked and loped across the video haze. Opium was a trip 
through a cartoon toilet grosser than the scene in 
Trainspotting. It was told from the point of view of a 
discarded kidney. 

The show was revolting and fascinating, which made the live 
performers even more creepy. During Schism, a pair (man 
and woman?) covered in tight silver suits head to toe, walked 
as if on animal haunches and seemed unable to control 
involuntary head-bobbing. Their motion defied all rules of 
bones and ligaments. 

Toward the end of the show the two grabbled to the top of a 
movie screen on rope and hung head-down, like sides of 
beef, while quivering in unison for nearly 35 minutes. Trip-
hop opening act Tricky was a guest on stage to chant for the 
dancers' pain. 

By the time of finale Lateralus, featuring footage of naked, 
floating humans being threatened by serpents, the terror was 
relatively calm, compared to all else that had been seen. 

If complex and beautiful movements of heavy metal are 
possible, Tool has discovered them. Like Malcolm McDowell's 
Alex in A Clockwork Orange, however, nothing resembling 
those images can be associated with anything but Tool from 
this point forward. 

Posted to t.d.n: 10/30/01 13:19:45