It had been nearly a full year since pioneering local hard rock band Tool played its own Los Angeles dates, so it wasn’t surprising that the Palladium was quite overfull for these dazzling sold-out shows.
Unexpectedly, no new songs were offered either night, but there were plenty of surprises to go around, including new musical arrangements, some special guests and a number of obscure cover tunes. Not to mention a self-assured and powerful performance that only adds to the band’s well-established live reputation.
Night No. 1 opened with “Sweat” and “Hush,” the first two songs from Tool’s 1992 “Opiate” EP, with intense bald singer Maynard Keenan stalking the stage in a hospital gown. He was soon joined by Brian, Bob and Dave from HBO’s “Mr. Show,” who secured the vocalist in a wheelchair and proceeded to administer some “medical testing” while the band tore into “Intolerance,” the lead track from Tool’s million-selling “Undertow” album.
The band’s two-night stand climaxed musically shortly thereafter, as a particularly ferocious version of “Eulogy,” from Tool’s Grammy-winning “Aenima” album, all but blew the roof off the joint. As the song’s soaring chorus kicked in, the crowd of fans packed in front of the stage exploded outwards, sending an intense shockwave through the audience. (A five-hour sound check on Thursday afternoon paid off for the band — which is currently between record deals — as they were able to defeat the Palladium’s infamous muffling acoustics.)
After an even dozen songs (including a cover of “You Lied” by English bassist Justin Chancellor’s former band Peach), Keenan said, “Just because we won a Grammy (for best metal performance) doesn’t mean we’re going to do an encore,” after which the band simply dropped their instruments and walked off the stage.
The second night seemed to focus more on the material found on “Aenima” (only one song was played both nights), and in many cases the songs were modified to such an extant as to almost sound unfamiliar. “Pushit” was slowed and bent into a somber mood piece, while a mesmerizing half-speed version of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold,” featuring Buzz from opening act the Melvins, was nearly unrecognizable, save for some of the lyrics.
Bassist Scott Reeder from defunct L.A. rock band Kyuss joined the show for a version of Kyuss’ “Demon Cleaner,” a selection that no doubt went right by most of the attendees.
The show also featured continuous visuals projected on three large screens. Created by guitarist Adam Jones, such provocative images as a metallic bird in flight, cartoonish caricatures of Presidents Clinton and Bush, and a closeup film of eye surgery added further intrigue to the band’s fascinating complexion.