Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
TOOL came to play in the city of Chicago, relentless and uncompromising.
2019 was such a hyped up on steroids year for TOOL. Starting with headlining some festival dates in the late spring / early summer, with a stop at Chicago's Open Air back in May, news about a new release to come out (finally!) in late August, and the band playing a couple new songs on the festival circuit from Fear Inoculum- that being "Invincible" and "Descending."
Talk about putting all facets of social media in an uproar.
Fans couldn't get enough about hearing the new songs being performed live.
So then the album comes out, reviews being absolutely favorable, worth repeated listens, and lo and behold the strength in sales knocks Taylor Swift off being number one, and so enters TOOL.
And then the announcement that TOOL will be going out on the road in the fall with openers Killing Joke. Life can't get any better with a bill like this.
Of course, tickets on almost all the dates sell out immediately, with a fan frenzy at a fever pitch, fans making plans to see their beloved TOOL on multiple dates, not as nutty as following The Grateful Dead back in the day.
The TOOL army is a rabid and devoted fan base, collecting everything within earshot, and wearing their TOOL T's proudly.
And so the tour comes to Chicago a few days after Halloween, and let's just say, they played like monsters. opening with the song "Fear Inoculum," Danny Carey positioning himself comfortably behind his drum kit, wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey, looking menacingly left and right for the cues to begin the impending percussion punishment.
The setlist has not changed on this North American tour, most likely because of the complex nature of each and every TOOL song, and the amount of musicianship that goes along with each and every song.
Of course the heavy hitters from TOOL's catalog are on full display, from "AEnema", "The Pot", "Parabol" into "Parabola," and on and on.
Relentless, and breathtaking, song after song after song.
Four of the thirteen songs performed on Sunday came from Inoculum keeping in mind that virtually every song that TOOL plays is over ten minutes long, leaving little room in a two hour or so set to get more songs into the set.
No matter. The fans got what they wished, endorphins flowing times ten, all songs providing an instrumental showcase of the juggernaut kind.
Adam Jones? On his A game.
Justin Chancellor? On his A game too.
Danny Carey? What do you think? Of course he's on his A game as well.
Man, the thunder from these guys.
While in the pit for the first song, found it hard to maneuver around, with the twelve subwoofers on the main floor jutting out from stage left to stage right, providing that extra thump and wallop.
Absolutely riveting when this band is full on- with Maynard James Keenan being a key part in the tension from the swells of music ricocheting all over the place. Sporting a nasty looking and fierce mohawk, Keenan mainly worked in the shadows towards the back of the stage, from two risers to the left and right of Danny Carey, and depending on his mood, brandishing the necessary vocal lift as he saw fit. Maynard stalked the back of the stage with a sinister bent, like he just got out of the insane asylum, and was looking for a hearty meal.
This show was a twisting and mind- bendingly awesome roller coaster of a ride from "Fear Inoculum" to the end with "Stinkfist."
No weak link in the bunch, the heightened impact and revelry of exquisite showmanship intact and inventive and enthralling.
The heavy hitters that are TOOL, showing no signs of wear and tear, and in no need of Bengay to massage the joints after this punishing set, at least not yet.
As for Killing Joke: ‘Tis a shame half of the fans were not in their seats, but waiting in gargantuan long lines to get their TOOL merch, or waiting to get a selfie with the LED display that highlighted TOOL, or waiting for beers or whatever. Their loss.
Not to go unnoticed from me, that's for sure.
How can you not be present for Geordie Walker's crushing guitar fills, and the apocalyptic forces surrounding frontman Jaz Coleman?
This was a 45 minute set highlighting Killing Joke's massively influential catalog, from "Eighties," "Seeing Red," "Total Invasion," "Pandemonium,” "and of course "Butcher."
This band is deserving of a full audience, no matter the venue.
And as for the tech wizards and engineers for TOOL: let it be known that it would be worth your while after the first song to take down from the gargantuan LED screen the name of the band Killing Joke, and replace that with a live feed of Jaz's mannerisms up close and personal.
That way, fans at the back of the venue and in the upper sections can witness firsthand what Jaz Coleman is all about, and witness Geordie fire off riff after heavy riff.
They're opening for TOOL for a reason. That being TOOL certainly get how important and influential they are, and are worthy of your attention, some 31 or so years since fruition.
HalloWolfbat - The HU, with openers Lightning Born and Doomriders Live At House of Vans
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
What a better way than to join the fine folks at House of Vans on Halloween night for an extra special art and music takeover, featuring The Hu, Mongolia's finest export in all things Folk Metal?
So you have that, which is awesome, and then you have openers Lightning Born and also Doomriders.
Adding color to the festivities: Dennis McNett and and all things Wolfbat, which promotes shows, events, performances, and new works of art from Dennis McNett and Wolfbat Studios.
So try to take this all in:
Upon entering House of Vans, you encounter the usual trappings of their wonderful events- an open bar, splendid background music fitting for Halloween, gigantic murals emblazoned both stage right and stage left, looking like wicked Indian carpets with a mystical bent, and then of course the gigantic artwork of Dennis Mcnett and Wolbat studios: two eight foot Wolves, two eight foot crows, and two eight foot skulls.
All of these fantastic creatures are on rollers, with movable arms and other features, and they come out in full regalia for each act appearing onstage throughout the show.
Hard to take this all in, since you have a packed main floor obviously set in place to enjoy the show and performances, and your typical trappings of a raucous rock n' roll show.
Have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it worked out, both with sympathetic fans allowing the creatures to get close to the stage and maneuver around, and also security having not much trouble with the audience being unruly, or manhandling the artistic creatures.
None of that happened thank god, and everyone in the audience was respectful, even when losing their ground during the performances.
Most of the audience were brandishing their cell phones to document this one of a kind display of beauty and might, and it worked in conjunction with all three bands throughout the entire night.
From a photographer's perspective, and the massive scale of the creatures in relation to the venue and bands: that posed a challenge, to try to your best to get the full creatures, let alone the profiles of their magnificent and beautifully designed faces, let alone when they were rolled up to the front of the stage, the perspective of them in relation to full band.
Easier said than done, on many levels.
I hope my pictures do some justice to this fantastic display and the event itself.
As far as The Hu is concerned- what a splendid and magnificent performance from the Mongolian brethren, who hail from Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, ready to rock House of Vans Chicago, their second performance in two months to our fine city- the first being back in September at Riot Fest.
They still have that fearsome look of power and might, conveying their brand of dark folk metal that is sung in their native language, and not in english, which works on so many levels.
This band is so special to JBTV Music Television, having taken the time after their Saturday performance at Riot Fest to walk the grounds and come over to our tent for an interview and celebration.
From Jerry Bryant of JBTV, Lauren O' Neil of 101KQX, the JBTV crew, we had a blast documenting the going's on and hanging with The HU along with their devoted fans who showed up to our tent at JBTV.
An unforgettable and bucket list kind of day, that's for sure.
Openers Doomriders brought the "hard and heavy" throughout their performance as well, even with not much of a soundcheck because of plane delays from Boston apparently, but with there take no prisoners approach to crunching metal, it was a fast paced 45 minute set with no weak link in the bunch.
Same holds true with opener Lightning Born, featuring members of Corrosion of Conformity, Demon Eye and Mega Colossus, matching their songs with amped up and crunching blues riffs, and a wall to wall wail of a voice from Brenna Leath.
Again, a mighty fine 45 minute performance from them as well.
Have to say that Chris Vicente's spirit was evident during The HU's performance- tragically passing away a little over two weeks ago- he adored The HU, and did his best to get them to perform a live taping at JBTV.
it's a shame that this didn't come to fruition, but having said that, he would've been front and center at this show at House of Vans, and when the gigantic wolves rolled out for The HU's performance, with their jaws opened and arms flailing to the beats, Chris was smiling from ear to ear from the heavens.
So yes- this show worked on so many levels, all things onward / upward with House of Vans and JBTV.