By David Price
I took my 16-year-old son, Devon, to his first concert last year. Personally, I’ve been to hundreds, so I wanted to introduce him to something that has meant so much to me for most of my life. My favorite band since the late nineties has been Tool. Back when we were still going on all the Cub and Boy Scout camping trips, a Tool CD would always be playing on the car stereo. It obviously rubbed off on him since he has turned into a loyal Tool fan as well. I wanted to make Tool his first concert, but there was one problem. Tool only releases new albums once every five years or so. This has led to speculation that there won’t be a new Tool album. Another issue is, since the last Tool album came out in 2006, Maynard James Keenan, their singer and frontman has become involved in several other projects, including two bands and, more recently, starting his own vineyard. Arguably, he probably doesn’t even need Tool anymore, although I am sure that is where his greatest success lies.
Last year, one of Maynard’s other projects, A Perfect Circle, came to the Boston area. Not knowing if my son would get the chance to ever see Tool, I purchased tickets and took Devon to his first concert at The Bank of America Pavilion, a great place to see a show. I never hesitate to get tickets for someone I wish to see if they are playing there.
We had a great time that night. We sat at “reserved” small tables that seat four. A married couple sat with us, and they were very nice to Devon and excited he was getting a chance to see his first concert. The husband even tried to convince my son that he was going to be a bigger fan of A Perfect Circle than of Tool by the time the show was over.
Devon knew nothing about A Perfect Circle before we went to the show, other than Maynard sang for them. He had never heard any of their music. By the time the show was over, though, he was a big fan, although the guy we sat with was reaching a little. He still loves Tool the most.
Along came December and I received an email alert from Live Nation that Tool tickets were going on sale that Saturday. This was a huge surprise to me. I had heard nothing about an upcoming tour, so I had to read the email several times then had to go to the Tool website before I believed it. I had thought maybe it was just a Tool cover band. It turned out that it was true, so I sat by the computer when tickets went on sale. This is a maddening experience. You search for tickets at the moment they go on sale. You get to choose how many and at what price range, then you have to type out some nonsense words to prove that you are a real person. Usually you are told there are no tickets available and have to refresh your web page several times before you finally get some. I was lucky enough to not have to suffer very long, and after just a couple refreshes, I nabbed three tickets for myself, my brother, and my son.
Having seen Tool a half a dozen times myself already, I knew this was going to be a completely different experience than A Perfect Circle. I had to prepare Devon for a Tool concert. I told him that, if it was anything like the previous ones I had attended; it would be very different from his first concert experience. Now, A Perfect Circle sounded great live, but there was no real stage show to speak of. They just stood up there and played. At the other Tool shows I have seen, they had a lot going on. There have always been intense light shows, and weird videos playing along with their songs. One year they even had two people in skintight body suits hanging suspended over the stage and doing some kind of bizarre air ballet. Devon needed to be ready for the strange and unusual at Tool’s show.
Maynard and his pals did not disappoint me. We had a straight on view of the stage where we were seated. It was perfect for viewing one of the most elaborate laser and light shows I have seen in a long time. There were large video screens behind the stage that showed images of angels, giant eyes, swirling spirals, grasping hands and many other religious, magical and profane symbols. At times, it was just like looking into a giant kaleidoscope. The dazzling lights, brilliant lasers and disturbing images induced a kind of hypnotic feeling. The only other band I can think of that achieves a similar live effect is Pink Floyd, the most psychedelic act I have ever seen.
The problem with seeing Tool is that you are never going to see them play all of your favorites on any given night. The average length of one of their songs is probably seven minutes, with several pushing ten or eleven minutes. That being said, they still did a great job of playing many of their favorites like “Stinkfist,” “Aenema,” “Schism,” and “Lateralus,” as well as mixing in a couple deeper tracks, like “Pushit.” In a weird way, I find Tool’s music meditative. It’s easy to get lost in it, and I am sure many Tool fans would agree.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time, though. My son would have liked to have heard one of his favorite songs, “Right in Two.” I missed “Rosetta Stoned” and I know my brother wanted to hear “Eulogy.” That’s the beauty of Tool, though. The last album, I saw them on three different legs of the tour. Each time they had a different setlist, so if you wanted to hear everything, you just had to go a few times. As far as I’m concerned, it was well worth it. I have never left a Tool show disappointed, except for the fact that it was over too soon. There is supposedly going to be a new album. If that is true, then I believe this was sort of a getting to know each other again sort of mini tour for the band members. Gloriously, a new album will follow and I assume a much larger supporting tour. Wonder how many more times we will see Tool in the near future? As many as possible.