The first time I experienced the live Tool experience was almost 13 years ago at Toronto's Concert Hall (Masonic Temple) in support of their latest release "Undertow" and it left quite the impression both on me emotionally and physically. I experienced a real "metal" show for the first time. Surrounded by raging lunatics with long hair, I stood at the edge of the mosh pit and watched bodies smash willingly into one another as the sounds of blistering guitar and bitter screaming filled my ears. I was officially "rocked" I left that show knowing that there was no better rock band on Earth than Tool.
Well over a decade had passed since that show and here I was standing yet again amongst a mass of long-haired lunatics and other rock fans from all walks of life, ready to be impressed by one of rock music's most exciting live tickets. All of us gathered there at Hamilton's biggest and dingiest hockey arena were expecting to have our minds and eardrums blown. Plain and simple.
Tool, a progressive rock/metal outfit hailing from Los Angeles, California have been blistering ears since 1992 when they burst on the scene with their first EP "Opiate" which featured such memorable titles as "Jerkoff" and "Cold and Ugly". The raw, furious sound captured on their first release was more comparable to standard metal and punk; whereas through the years they have evolved into quite possibly the most interesting and unpredictable bands in rock today.
"10,000 Days" (2006), their most recent release, follows in the lyrical tradition of their previous albums; 1993's "Undertow", 1996's "Aenima" and 2001's "Lateralus". Lead singer Maynard James Keenan continues his obsession with pain, despair, anger and the inevitable demise of the state of California either by a natural disaster or self-destruction.
Sonically, Tool have steadily improved on the sound of each of their previous albums, thus culminating in a stellar live show. The set that Tool treated approximately 17,000 faithful too was one that proved to be not only an experience for the ears, but the eyes as well. After approximately 4 minutes of continuous and ominous feedback, Tool, (led by Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey) took to the stage to thunderous applause and screaming. They immediately rolled into cuts of their latest disc which warmed up the crowd for the third track "46 & 2" (off the Aenima CD and also one of their most popular tunes). The menacing guitar and bass coupled with Maynard screaming the chorus "Stepping through my shadow...crawling out the other side....46 & 2 just ahead of me..." had the place going berserk. Add to this the twisted images of carnival freak shows and strange Egyptian symbols flickering across the stage and on huge screens behind the stage; and you had a true Tool moment.
The band performed mostly material from their two most recent releases, then brought the show to a close with the title track off their current release, "10,000 Days". After battering the audience for over 2 hours, the group then all bowed and thanked the audience for coming to see them. They then all embraced at the centre of the stage (which is a Tool post-show ritual) and exited the stage. It was quite the sight to see 4 men who had just finished venting their frustrations musically, turn and show their audience and each other such respect and admiration.
It is evident that during the 13 years since I last saw Tool live, they have matured both as musicians and as humans. However, the show in Hamilton reminded me that Tool fans do not change. There will always be those rabid fans that can't wait to get to the show to hit the mosh pit or to punch someone in the nose. Yet, as long as Tool keep making the type of music that was played on Sunday night, there will also always be those of us who are simply looking for the perfect live rock experience.