Tool•Steel Beans•October 11, 2023•Delta Center
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
Tool, renowned for their progressive and alternative metal sound, delivered an unparalleled live experience that transcends the conventional boundaries of a concert. The band’s performances are a symphony of auditory and visual artistry, captivating audiences in a mesmerizing journey through sonic landscapes.
Tool is a band that I’ve been hoping to see for some time, but for one reason or another, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself. I had the opportunity last year to see another one of Maynard James Keenan’s bands, Puscifer last year at Eccles Theater. But it made me want to see Tool all that much more. So it was exciting to finally be at Delta Center with a sold-out crowd to see this iconic pioneering band.
The night opened with a unique performance from Steel Beans. I was not familiar with the one-man band before this. Surrounded by several mannequin heads Beans sat at his drum kit and was then handed a guitar. He shredded on the guitar with one hand as he played the beat with the other hand and of course his foot on the kick drum. It was an impressive site to see. The audience seemed to take a minute to figure out what they thought of Steel Beans. But once they got a sense of what was going on, the applause seemed to grow from song to song. By the end of the set, the now full Delta Center gave Steel Beans a rousing ovation.
From the moment the lights dimmed and the crowd’s anticipation reaches its crescendo, Tool’s enigmatic presence takes center stage. Maynard James Keenan, the elusive frontman, often cloaked in shadows, emerges as a sonic shaman, guiding the audience through a labyrinthine tapestry of intricate rhythms and ethereal melodies.
The stage itself is a spectacle. The symbiosis of Tool’s music and visual elements creates an immersive experience that goes beyond mere entertainment; it becomes a form of sonic alchemy.
The setlist, carefully curated from their rich discography, is a journey through time and space. Crowd favorites coalesce with more recent offerings, providing a dynamic range that keeps the audience on the edge of euphoria. The interplay between Adam Jones’s masterful guitar work, Justin Chancellor’s thunderous bass lines, and Danny Carey’s virtuosic drumming creates a sonic tapestry that envelops the venue. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better drummer live in all of my years of concert-going. Carey was incredible.
Maynard’s vocals, haunting and otherworldly, serve as both an anchor and a celestial guide. His stage presence is enigmatic, often shrouded in shadows or hidden behind an ever-present curtain of hair. At this concert, Maynard revealed an impressive bleached mohawk. I heard many fans in the crowd commenting on how much they loved this look. This intentional mystique enhances the intrigue of the performance, as the audience is left to decipher the poetic and often cryptic lyrics.
One of the defining characteristics of a Tool concert is the absence of a traditional spotlight on the frontman. Instead, the focus is on the collective entity that is Tool. Each member is a crucial component of the sonic machinery, and the synergy between them is palpable. This deviation from the conventional spotlight on the lead singer reinforces the band’s emphasis on collaboration and the shared experience of the music.
The instrumental opuses, such as “Rosetta Stoned,” showcase the technical prowess of each member. Danny Carey’s drum solo is a rhythmic odyssey, a showcase of percussive virtuosity that defies the constraints of time. The visual accompaniments, synchronized with the complex rhythms, create a multisensory spectacle that transcends the boundaries of a typical rock concert.
Tool’s commitment to pushing artistic boundaries extends to their use of innovative technologies. Intricate laser displays and meticulously crafted stage setups elevate the concert into a multimedia spectacle. The band’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every aspect of their performance, from the visual elements to the sonic nuances.
Maynard’s interactions with the audience are sparse but impactful. His enigmatic persona occasionally breaks, revealing a connection with the crowd that is genuine and raw. In these moments, the audience glimpses the vulnerability behind the mystique, forging a deeper emotional connection with the performance.
A Tool concert is not merely a musical performance; it’s a visceral and transformative experience. The intricate blend of progressive metal, mesmerizing visuals, and enigmatic stage presence creates a sonic tapestry that transcends the boundaries of traditional concerts. Tool doesn’t just perform; they orchestrate an immersive journey through the depths of sound and emotion, leaving an indelible mark on all who bear witness to their sonic alchemy.
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