Tool in Phoenix: Point/Counterpoint

Categories: Concert Review
toolshadow.jpg
Luke Holwerda
Maynard James Keenan performing in shadows. See more shots in our Tool slide show.
By Mike R. Meyer and Martin Cizmar

When it comes to divisive '90s alt-rockers, we at Up On The Sun like to hedge our bets. So, as we did for the Beck and Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction shows, we dispatched two music critics to Tuesday night's Tool concert at Phoenix's US Airways Center. New Times contributor Mike R. Meyer is a longtime Tool fan. Music editor Martin Cizmar is largely indifferent toward the band. Here's what they had to say about the show.

Martin Cizmar: Turns out Tool shows smell pretty bad. I expect a mixture of sweat and nicotine at any prog-metal concert, but not the overpowering stench of Old Spice and Curve I choked on in the packed halls of this arena. Oof . . . While I imagine some will say the security was overzealous, I am glad they frisked every single one of these dudes.

Mike R. Meyer: Eh. It wouldn't have been that hard sneaking some contraband in here. Hell, we got wanded at Clutch the other night, and they're a hippie jam band. This crowd is just weird. Heshers, meatheads, scene kids, normal folks, and, for some reason, a lot of chicks dressed for a night of clubbin'.

Cizmar: We have ridiculously good seats, so I'm seeing enough of Maynard James Keenan. Even though his mic stand is stupidly on the drum riser, he isn't spotlighted and the giant screens show nothing but crazy psychedelic/goth shit. The folks in the cheap seats are getting hosed, though.

Meyer: That's just Maynard being Maynard. He's a pompous ass, but I'm a huge Tool geek when it comes down to it. And I'm a sucker for prog metal. Three songs in and I'm pleasantly surprised by the sound. This sounds great for a basketball arena.
Cizmar: Agreed on the sound. I only wish Beyoncé had such great sound at US Airways two weeks ago. When you think about it, though, Tool probably has their pick of sound guys and roadies. I imagine this show to be the dream job for the bedraggled guitar-tech types I know.

Meyer: Is it just me, or does Tool seem to be half-assing it tonight? I know they like to change things up live, but four songs in, there seems to be a of couple mistakes/miscues. They just don't sound particularly inspired tonight.

Cizmar: Playing "Stinkfist" third was brilliant; gets everyone settled in. Playing the music video on the backing screens was t-a-c-k-y, though. Commission some new video art, cheapskates. I don't what they're normally like, as this is my first Tool show, but this is basically what I expected: dudes with long hair standing in one spot and sounding viciously crisp through the trudge riff on "Fourty Six & 2." They're loud and tight, which is good enough for me. I mean, shit, whose to say how "into it" they are -- you can't see the damned singer.

Meyer: I actually appreciate their complete lack of movement onstage. My feet are still worn out from Mayhem Festival, and I'm not missing anything by sitting down.

Cizmar: The floor is so calm. Not that I expect a giant circle pit, but even headbanging is minimal. I was happy to see a lone crowd-surfer and a little moshing during "Schism."

Meyer: Yeah, I'm gonna have to retract what I wrote earlier. They seem to have settled into a nice groove now. It's been a pretty mellow show so far. Are they setting us up for the aggressive stuff later? Or is subdued just the theme of the night?

Cizmar: There's only one person who's ever worn a Suns jersey on this floor that needs a haircut more than Tool drummer Danny Carey, and that's Suns point guard Steve Nash. Is it just me, or did the odor of marijuana become much more evident as soon as the lasers went on? Smells a lot better than cigarettes, sweat, and modestly priced cologne.

Meyer: The lasers definitely add a cool element -- I don't care how "10th grade" that sounds. Kinda funny that Maynard asked whether we're all right. We're still awake, if that's what he meant.

Cizmar: Hey, aren't you supposed to be the fan? By the way, Californians should be alarmed at how much this Phoenix crowd is loving "Ænema," Maynard's song about L.A. falling in to the Pacific, leaving "Arizona Bay." "Learn to swim," he screams. "Yeeeeeeah," the crowd replies. Randy Newman would cry if were he here right now.

Meyer: The drum-off during the encore was pretty cool, but the drums of the kid they brought onstage were much quieter than Carey's. Felt bad for him. Really like what they did with "Lateralus" for the encore. Had to have been 15 minutes, at least.

Cizmar: As drum solos go, that was pretty solid. The only thing that could make it better is if Maynard, who disappeared, returns to the stage wearing only his underwear . . . Wait . . . Yes, awesome!

Meyer: Maybe my being a fan is what's keeping this from being a great show. After seeing them at Red Rocks and a couple of times at Cricket, this show just isn't as memorable or engaging. A great show by normal standards, but for Tool, it's pretty pedestrian. No "Pushit" or "Eulogy"? More Ænima is a good thing, fellas.

Cizmar: I think calling this a "show" is a bit of an overstatement. The sound is great, and I thought the song selection was good, but there's so little to look at. Green lasers and your old music videos? Really? I liked it more than I expected, but I'd prefer a more complete show with, you know, "a visible performance."


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