There’s an old saying: Good things come to those who wait. For fans of Tool, waiting 13 long years for new music was definitely worth it.
In August, Tool not only released their new album “Fear Inoculum,” they also released their music catalog on streaming services. If that wasn’t enough, Tool set out on the Fear Inoculum Tour, which recently stopped at San Antonio’s AT&T Center on a cold and windy night.
As the fans entered the arena, signs stated ““photography or filming of tonight’s performance on any device is not permitted.” Tool has a strict rule on photography, which in the past has resulted in ejecting fans who broke the rule. The band would rather the audience focus on the music and the experience rather than view the concert through their phone’s nine-inch screen.
After a loud 45-minute set from Killing Joke, a punk/industrial band from England celebrating their 40th anniversary, a shimmering translucent curtain surrounded the stage.
Moments later, drummer Danny Carey, clad in a San Antonio Spurs jersey, kicked off Tool’s set with the percussion intro for the title track from “Fear Inoculum.” At the song progressed, and visuals were projected onto the curtain, the rest of the band joined Carey on stage. Lead singer Maynard James Keenan stood in the background to further illustrate that the music was the most important part of the performance.
Even though the band may not have played crowd favorites like “Sober” or “Lateralus,” the set list successfully combined the old with the new. Songs like “Aenima,” “Parabol/Parabola,” and “Vicarious” were played as visuals from the Alex Grey videos were projected, not just on the screen behind that band, but also on the curtain which pulled back out. After the song “Forty-Six & 2,” the stage went dark. With great theatrics, a large clock appeared, counting down the time until the band returned to the stage.
After the intermission, the band performed “Chocolate Chip Trip,” which at its core is a drum solo by Carey. They followed that up with “Invincible,” which was an impressive song to see performed live. The song can be a metaphor for how the band, which formed in 1990, has been able to remain relevant and their longevity in the music industry. Maynard sings about “Warrior struggling to remain relevant…Warrior struggling to remain consequential” and how the warrior was “once invincible but now the armor’s wearing thin… put his heavy shield down.”
As the evening was winding down and Tool was set to play their final song, “Stinkfist,” Maynard told the crowd, “You’ve been good, so you can take out your phones and do stuff with them, you crazy kids and your phones.” Seeing the number of cell phones raised to get a picture or video was a testament to just how respectful the crowd had been to the earlier no-phone rule.
After about two hours and twenty minutes and a quick drive home, the imagery of that performance was still in my head. It was a unique experience to watch a band and become totally immersed in the atmosphere. Next time you go to a concert, put your phone down and appreciate the artistry of the musicians. You will find yourself enjoying the show in a different light.
Cover photo Brian Maass