Tool thrills audience

By Keith P. McManus
The Flat Hat

Tool is a fascinating anomaly. In their four studio releases, the ambitious quartet has sought to elevate the heavy metal genre beyond the standard thrash of their hard rock contemporaries. This penchant for innovation is most apparent on "Lateralus," their latest effort. Luckily for concert-goers, Tool has assembled an elaborate stage show to match the ambition of their studio releases. This stunning spectacle came to the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheatre Saturday night.

The band opened the show with "The Grudge," the powerful opening track to "Lateralus," before launching into two hours of band favorites such as "Aenema," "Schism" and "Prison Sex." Unlike the standard large venue rock show, Tool do not allow the band to be the focus of the audience's attention. Rather, singer James Maynard Keenan, drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor remained shrouded in darkness for the duration of the performance, diverting the crowd's attention to the elaborate synchronized video presentation which ran for the entire length of the concert.

The stage consisted of two large video screens that hovered above the band and a smaller screen directly behind Keenan's elevated platform, which put the dynamic singer in an eerie silhouette. The video presentation consisted of a mix of haunting animated and live action sequences in the style of the band's famously creepy music videos and offered a stunning visual complement to the band's furious sonic assault.

Tool showed no signs of difficulty in transferring their elaborately produced studio sound to the stage, as all the songs were extremely tight and masterfully performed. They showcased the instrumental virtuosity of all members, most notably drummer Carey, whose relentless, hypnotic percussion supplied a solid rhythmic backbone to Keenan's swirling, powerful vocals and Jones' mesmerizing guitar work.

The most bizarre and intriguing aspect of the performance, however, was not the mysterious stage setting or the video display ‹ rather it involved the performance of two live actors who appeared on stage in latex suits made to look like tall, quasi-human creatures. The two circumambulated the stage on all fours during Tool's performance of "Schism" and later returned during a break in the music to climb ropes to the top of the stage structure and hang upside down, flailing about wildly. A strange moment indeed, but yet another indication of the band's conscious efforts to improve its stage shows from a purely aural experience to a full-sensory artistic performance.

In the popular musical climate of today, which seems to favor the blandness of processed rap metal or the redundancy of uninspired readymade pop outfits, it is refreshing that a band such as Tool exists to add some much-needed freshness to the contemporary musical landscape. Tool continues to push the limits of rock both inside and, judging by Saturday night's riveting performance, outside of the studio. The sole low point of the Virginia Beach concert was when Tool, eschewing the hackneyed cat-and-mouse game of encores in favor of a cohesive set, left the stage for good after two hours of first-rate performance.

Tool concert - *****

Related Links:

  • Tool's web site.
  • See an audiorevolution.com review of "Lateralus".
  • Listen to "Lateralus".
  • See the latest tour dates for Tool.
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