If ever a hard-rock band mastered the art of dramatic live presentation, surely it is L.A.’s Tool, whose tightly wound musical brooding and uncompromising sense of tension make for consistently provoking concerts.
The band took to the large Universal stage in various styles of body paint and unleashed fury, power and passion in doses rarely seen or heard, except at small clubs from hungry young bands still looking for a break. Perhaps these guys were just happy to be home.
Maniacal singer Maynard Keenan, colored half-blue — not unlike the two “Star Trek” characters who hated each other because their colors were on opposing sides of their bodies — prowled and writhed about as he sang. During opener “Third Eye,” one of the stand-out tracks from Tool’s recent “Aenima” cq (Zoo) album, his body flung about as if the music was hitting him like a series of mighty punches.
Keenan also has a unique way over looking out over a crowd, staring at some unseen foe with a steely glint in his eye that’s frightening and mysterious.
The music, which was — simply put — a psychotic and deranged update of what Rush played in the 1970s, was delivered with impressive skill and a glorious sense of timing. The songs, many of which are brutal tales of unadulterated hate and cynical observation, pummeled the audience into a heightened sense of fervor that in turn seemed to inspire the band to further turn up its own performance.
The numbing “Opiate,” which Keenan said was about Hollywood agents, was the best of the older songs played, while “Aenema,” cq about a wished-for sinking of Southern California into the Pacific, and the sardonic “Eulogy,” one of the band’s many songs of societal decay and disdain, were the picks of the newer ones.
Also a highlight was the animated short which was shown on two large video screens midway through the two-hour show, wherein Santa Claus and Jesus got in a fistfight over the real meaning of Christmas. A certain and hilarious cure for those holiday blues.