Publication: Grand Rapids Press
Date: September, 2001
page: title: Tool Creates Powerful Art Worthy of Attention author: John Serba Tool creates powerful art worthy of attention Friday, September 14, 2001 I'm willing to bet that the 10,000 or so fans who went to Van Andel Arena Thursday night weren't expecting the Scottville Clown Band to be the main attraction. Of course, Tool singer Maynard James Keenan was exhibiting his trademark sarcasm when he introduced his band as such - - and if you're wondering why he can make such an obscure West Michigan reference (yes, there really is a Scottville Clown Band), well, he used to live here. Beyond that, it was mostly serious business for Tool Thursday night. The group spent the past two days in Grand Rapids after postponing Tuesday's show due to the national tragedy. As a result, Keenan and his bandmates, Adam Jones on guitar, Justin Chancellor on bass and Danny Carey on drums, seemed to be well-rested and in peak form throughout the two-hour show, even though the singer admitted otherwise. "We're finding it very difficult to concentrate tonight," Keenan said, adding later, "I have a suggestion for you: Take the feelings you've experienced in the last few days and hang on to them, good or bad, and please create something positive with them." And as strong feelings lead to the creation of powerful art, the band's performance of "Schism" seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Tool's songs have almost always been about relationships and the quest for spiritual clarity -- but hearing Keenan sing, "To bring the pieces back together/And rediscover communication" on Thursday night seemed especially potent and timely. As did "The Patient" ("Be patient... I must keep reminding myself of this") and "The Grudge" ("Wear your grudge like a crown of negativity/Calculate what you will or will not tolerate... Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen"). Tool's concert seemed to be a welcome release not only for the fans -- some of whom, prior to Tool's set, unfurled an American flag, which was cheered -- but for the band as well. "Hopefully, tonight has been somewhat of a soundtrack for healing," Keenan told the crowd. "Because there's certainly going to be a lot more pain in the coming years." But before things got too heavy-handed or somber, Keenan immediately broke some of the tension by having the crowd take his "nonconformist oath." "Repeat after me: Question authority. Strive to be different. Strive to be unique. Never repeat what other people say," he quipped. Ha ha. The band then blasted through "Opiate," which, at about four minutes, proved to be the set's shortest song. Indeed, Tool's forte seems to be lengthy, psychedelic epics replete with drawn-out instrumental intros, outros and interludes and bouts of extreme aggression complemented by extreme melodicism -- which explains how the band managed to play only 11 songs in two hours and five minutes. Which isn't to imply that the band seeks to completely alienate more casual fans. More popular tunes "Stinkfist," "Forty-Six & 2" and "Prison Sex" came early in the set, and every song featured bizarre, highly creative video footage -- which was both comical and disturbing -- projected onto two giant screens towering above the stage. Generally, Tool's show completely de-emphasized the band members, instead focusing almost completely on visual imagery and musicianship. Even Keenan, whose odd stage demeanor has been the primary focus at past shows, was on a platform on the back of the stage in front of a smaller video screen, making him essentially a silhouette throughout most of the performance. Not until the lights came up at the very end of the concert could the fans who weren't close to the stage see that the singer was painted white from head to toe, with a wide black stripe down the middle of his face. The sound mix was extraordinary, not too loud but very clear, so Keenan's melodic vocals were never in fear of being drowned out by Carey's astoundingly technical drumming. Thus, the soft-to-loud dynamics of "Parabol/Parabola" and the extended "remix" version of "Pushit" were quite intense and powerful. You'd be hard-pressed to find a basic 4/4 beat to pump your fists to at a Tool concert, so brainy and complex its music can be. That's one thing the band had in common with opening act Meshuggah, which proved itself to be one of the most astounding heavy metal acts out there today. I could use up this entire article attempting to describe the Swedish group's musical complexities -- but I'll be content saying that the band certainly keeps you on your toes, taking jarring leaps from bludgeoning chaos to avant-garde jazzy melodicism to staccato rhythms, which may have been a bit too obtuse for a largely indifferent crowd. Still, Meshuggah played incredibly interesting stuff.
Posted to t.d.n: 09/14/01 23:53:27