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.