Publication: Chicago Tribune
Date: September, 2002
page: 30 title: Tool show titillates all the senses author: Moira McCormick Two hours of Tool leaves one as punch-drunk from the band's deeply disturbing, yet perversely gorgeous visuals as from its heady art-metal music. As one fan remarked while exiting Thursday's concert at the United Center, "This was the next best thing to Cirque du Soleil." The quartet of cerebral headbangers, arguably the most skillful hybridizers yet of intricate prog-rock and pulverizing riff-rock, offered to the near-capacity crowd a veritable circus of color, movement and jaw-dropping effects. There were the pair of giant inflated morulas (clusters of embryonic cells), for instance, that gently rotated in the air, launched midway through the show during crowd favorite "Parabola." Two soaring video screens flanking the stage displayed a constant stream of Tool visuals, the video images concocted primarily by guitarist Adam Jones, a former Hollywood makeup and prosthetic artist who, in his primal-dread-infused depictions of tortured, vivisected figures, seemed to be tapping directly into the subconscious place where our nightmares are forged. Equally prominent in the Tool art attack was the work of Alex Grey, whose anatomical/Hindu hybrid backdrops and banners (a mandala of human eyes, for instance) provided a riotously hued contrast to the stark, unsettling cinematic goings-on. It wasn't possible to watch the video screens and the band simultaneously, which was frustrating at times. Tool isn't the most animated of bands, but in lead singer Maynard James Keenen (sic) it has a genuine eccentric -- not to mention a potent, accomplished vocalist (oft referred to as the best singer in the hard rock arena) -- who served as a focal point. Most, if not all, frontmen actually get out in front of the band; Keenen (sic) stayed on a riser behind Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor, and spent most of the show facing stage left, where drummer Danny Carey did his elaborate, elemental percussion thing. Keenen (sic), whose shaved head sported a thick black stripe from the base of his skull all the way around to his chin, stripped down to a pair of black briefs early on, during Tool favorite "Stinkfist," a wondrously cathartic slab of stomping angst. He'd strap on a guitar from time to time, but mostly writhed and shouted in place, while Jones and Chancellor comported themselves: heads down, minimal body movement, fingers flying. Tool wasn't afraid to jam, either, which it did at several points -- most notably in one of the set closers, "Triad," in which the band was joined by keyboardist Mike Patton (formerly of Faith No More) and drummer John Stanier (formerly of Helmet) of opening band Tomahawk for a head- spinningly percussive workout. For all the terrifying visions and bleakly worded, decay- obsessed, grinding music, Tool's performance actually had an upward trajectory, spiritually speaking. The onscreed images incorporated more color and light as the show went on, and the series of banners that unfuled from the ceiling toward the end showed a human figure progressing from a skeleton to a creature of luminescence. Tool departed after and unexpected and really quite disarmingly sweet group hug -- preceded by Keenen's (sic) evidently heartfelt thanks to the crowd for "coming and sharing." "Hopefully," said the normally taciturn singer in the longest stage speech of the night, "we've left you inspired, healed and horny."
Posted to t.d.n: 09/02/02 20:24:56