After a cheeky pot and parmi at the Corner Hotel, an army of black tees floated down Olympic Boulevard towards Rod Laver Arena for an evening of unequivocal euphoria, ecstasy and excitement as prog-metal giants Tool, return to our shores for their first album tour and Melbourne headline show in 13 years. Rainbow speckles in the form of feather boas and oversized glasses weaved through the black parade on their way to AAMI Park Stadium across the road for Sir Elton John; the Melbourne Park Precinct exploding with talent. The stuttering ‘Benny and the Jetts’ guided our way towards Rod Laver, as we entered the venue with 10 minutes to spare before the lights went down for a completely immersive, no phones and no photography, experience like no other.
After years of hearing about Tools incredible live show second hand, I was about to pop my Tool live set cherry but I don’t think I was ready for what was to come. Seated in row PP, the furthest row from the stage in the bleachers with a direct facing view to the stage, I initially thought we had the worst seats in the house, but for this concert, for this band, for this sound and for this lighting, our seats were impossibly perfect.
Masked by a stringed curtain, gripping guitarist Adam Jones, spellbinding bassist Justin Chancellor, drum wizard Danny Carey and the majestic Maynard James Keenan glided into the title track from their highly anticipated latest album, ‘Fear Inoculum’, a welcome opener met with inviting cheers and roars indicating that die-hard Tool fans accepted both track and album in amongst their prodigious catalogue.
Weaving through ‘Ænema’, ‘Eon Blue Apocalypse’, ‘The Patient’ and ‘Parabola’, the band (consisting of members at a median age of 54 years old), stunned, soared and sliced through each track in an seamless haze leaving the crowd entirely stupefied by their impeccable musicianship and effortless delivery of complex arrangements and time signatures.
Maynard, positioned perched upon a platform spanning the back of the stage, towered over his band mates in an almost protective manner. He became almost animalistic with his artistic and theatrical expression, primitively crouching and leaning into to each song, his voice booming through the Rod Laver jungle. Danny Carey held the foursome together like glue with his lightening playing and octopus arms shifting between time signatures with ease. One major thing stood out for each of the members; they all looked like they were having fun and genuinely wanted to be playing the show, something fans haven’t felt in their past tours, and my gosh was it refreshing!
The stringed curtain parted and act two commenced for a full outer body experience as ‘Pneuma’ floated in. Light beams fanned the arena from floor to roof, cutting and dancing on the ceiling, smearing rainbow strips where they tread. Epileptic strobes pierced through the air, mimicking ever flick of Danny’s wrist over the kit. Every crevasse of Rod Laver Arena was soaked in inescapable light and sound. With an open mouth, I sat there consumed by the chaos, transported by the textures and dazed by the drug-like episode without a fraction of space and time awareness. Keenan’s booming vocals perforated my stomach, Justin’s bass paralysed my arms and legs, Danny’s drumming crippled my spine and Adam’s soaring guitar numbed my chest. For only seconds shy of twelve minutes, my body and my mind were incarcerated, held captive by Tool. I was comfortably numb. In fact, the performance was exactly how I imagine Pink Floyd would deliver ‘Comfortably Numb’ live. I would also attribute a distinct likeness between the bands in a multitude of manners, from talent to arrangement, stylistic traits and even innovation- in this essay I will…
Back to the jaw-dropping show for a trio of favourites, ‘Schism’, ‘Jambi’, and the delicious ‘Vicarious’, Tool broke the crowd. ‘Part of Me’ and ‘Descending’ followed and their main set saw an exciting close with the enchanting ‘Forty Six & 2’.
With a 12 minute interval counting down on the main screen, the crowd let out a New Years Eve worth countdown chant from the 20 second mark for an unexpected display of pure talent from Danny Carey as he tapped, banged and flittered the standing gong and his drum kit for ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’. ‘Invincible’ was heavenly and fitting to the band and they set they had just produced. Thanking the crowd for their hospitality and respect, Maynard invited punters to take their phones out to capture the final belter, ‘Stinkfist’.
Tool earn their name as one of the most exciting band ever and with this tour they continued to build on that legacy.
Rod Laver Arena Melbourne
Saturday 22 February 2020
Reviewed by Tammy Walters
Photos by Simon Pickering