Friday, August 2, 2013

No. 307 – 46 & 2

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor, Danny Carey
Original Release: Ænima
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

When Laurie went to see Tool with me In September 2006, she had been forewarned about the makeup of the audience, so when she took the L to meet me in Rosemont and got off a car as the only woman among 40 dudes in black T-shirts, she was nonplussed.

That said, even I couldn’t believe the extent of the sausage fest that the Tool concert proved to be. I mean, Rush is a chick band by comparison. Laurie was one of only two women I saw in our entire section of the upper bowl at The Venue Formerly Known As The Rosemont Horizon. I think I saw one other woman down in the lower bowl that night.

Even though the amount of testosterone threatened to blow the roof off the barn, it was a relatively staid crowd. A mosh pit of sorts roiled on the floor—I don’t recall that there was no seating, but at times it seemed that way. Otherwise, I didn’t see any violent activity of any kind. Laurie said later that she thought the crowd was way better than that of U2—a collection of toolheads, ironically—although not as good as that of Pearl Jam.

The show itself was incredible. The warmup act was another prog metal act called Isis, and they were fairly nondescript—neither memorable nor regrettable—so, fine with me. Tool hit the stage to the roar of the crowd to the crunching chords of Stinkfist. Hot damn, one of my favorite songs out of the box!

Tool’s stage setup is unique, as far as I know. The band members were arranged in a trapezoid shape with Adam on guitar and Justin on bass occupying the front corners of the stage. In the back of the stage closer to the center were Danny on drums and Maynard mostly on vocals with a keyboard thrown in.

That’s right, for those of you who don’t know this: Maynard, unlike EVERY other rock-band lead singer in the world, isn’t front and center but shunted to the back. In fact, he played the entire show from the back of the stage not only with no spotlight on him but with a distinct absence of any lighting whatsoever. He was a ghostly silhouette who came off the riser exactly twice—once at the end of the show and once very briefly during Rosetta Stoned.

The idea is that no one should stand out in the band. The reality is it draws even more attention to Maynard, in my opinion, because it’s such a different arrangement from everything else.

Tool certainly doesn’t need a lead singer out front to create a spectacle, however. The stage was all white flooring—another unique facet. Behind the band was a white wall that rises about 10, maybe 15, feet above the stage. The purpose of this became obvious during the opening song. The entire stage is used as a backdrop for the videos that were shown throughout. The lasers came out during the last song of the regular set and were used to great effect during Wings of Marie—the song of the night, hands down.

The setlist stuck mostly to 10,000 Days, and if there was any complaint, it was that the concert was way too short. And I’m not talking too short in the I-could-hear-them-play-for-4-hours vein, but in the they’re-really-going-to-play-only-10-songs? vein.

But that’s what it was: Stinkfist, Jambi, 46 & 2, The Pot, Schism, Lost Keys/Rosetta Stoned, Wings for Marie/10,000 Days, Lateralus, Vicarious, Ænema. Granted, it still was an hour-and-half show, because Rosetta Stoned and Wings for Marie clock in at a combined 31 minutes, but 10 songs is a bit light.

It was an excellent show nevertheless. By the time it rolled around, I was on top of my job after five months of nonstop work to get my head above water, and I rocked hard, even flashing twin Secret Devil Signs while belting it out during Wings for Marie. In the end, I didn’t feel gypped.

As Laurie and I walked to my car parked on a side street for some reason (I can’t imagine the lot was full), she agreed that even though she felt like a flower among a bunch of weeds, she had a good time. She knew little about Tool but said they had a really good vibe, and she didn’t feel any pressure from anyone in the crowd.

Even better, she said when Tool comes around again—whenever that will be—she’ll happily go with me again. Good thing, too. Too much sausage is bad for you.

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