I am now a man.
Each of us has music that takes us back to certain points in our lives, and that’s a unique trait of music. You remember hearing things at certain moments you deem to be important, and you make a mental note of those things, and those songs always hold a special place in your heart. Some of us even have these relationships with entire albums, certain bands. One of these bands, for me, is Tool.
I started listening to them at a very young age, and I’m surprised I even got into them back then. I was probably around 10 years old, and it just kind of happened. I started with Ænima, then followed the band forwards and backwards ever since. There was just an aura of mystery about this band that always appealed to me.
Tool is the reason I decided to attend the Saturday of Lollapalooza this year. Overall, the festival experience was very positive and I loved the atmosphere. All day, no matter which band I was watching, I just kept telling myself, “You’re seeing Tool tonight, Andrew. Everything is going to be alright.”
I’ll explain this to you this way. I consumed all of ONE (1) 12-ounce can of beer on this day, because I wanted to be of clear (conscious) mind when this band took the stage. It was abysmally hot, and not only did I not want to spend $5 for a can of beer, I didn’t want to risk the dehydration that would follow.
The atmosphere of the show was absolutely electric. I swear, there is something about being in a crowd of people who hold the same love for you for a group, and its different than the love people give the newest Pop Music flavor of the week. I could feel the passion and intensity from within the crowd. The crowd was its own entity, it’s own life form. It existed only for this brief time, but its life was filled with happiness.
Tool has an amazing presence, even before they got on stage, it could be felt. I could feel them in the air, and as the skyline of Chicago lit up behind me, I knew I was in for something special. Something trans formative. Something transcendent.
Boy oh boy, was I right on the money.
This show was absolutely god-like. I’m not sure what that means, but to me, it means absolute perfection. And it was. I’m not blowing things out of proportion, this was, in all honesty, the single greatest live show I have EVER been to. Sorry, Coldplay, you just got bumped out of the #1 slot. And I don’t see anyone passing this one. Everything about this concert was flawless. The band, the music, the setting, the crowd, the energy, it was all top-notch. Something that could never be duplicated or replicated.
The hot day turned into the muggy night, and the population in the south field at Grant Park and grown at a tremendous rate throughout the day, and was now, in my estimation, in excess of 25,000 people. It was an absolute sight to behold that many people all in one place. Almost awe-inspiring. There were this many THOUSANDS of people, in the world, who all decided that on this day, at this time, they were going to see Tool.
It was amazing, just WAITING on them to take the stage. We had the music and flashing lights of Animal Collective behind us, and it was a great way to pass the time, even if those of us up front for Tool who in turn had pretty far away “seats” for Animal Collective.
The crowd was boisterous, fantastic, and the majority somehow intoxicated. But we all still realized the severity of the situation. We were about to meet our maker.
Even when Danny Carey’s drum kit (that freaking monster) was wheeled onto the stage, the crowd erupted. It’s hard to no get chills thinking about the massive drum set taking its place near center stage. It was, again, almost as if I was watching it from out of my own body.
At 8:30, Adam, Justin, and Danny took the stage to an absolute avalanche of applause and cheers, and they hadn’t even so much as played a single note. They positioned themselves, and began to play “Jambi” from 10,000 Days, and the crowd went absolutely nuts. There was a pulsating surge behind me, as everyone in the entire crowd created a tidal wave of humanity rushed forward. Then, when it seemed as if the heat and sweaty bodies were as close as they could get next to you, the one and only Maynard James Keenan took the stage, and holy hell, the crowd went crazy for him. Another surge, as “Jambi” continued. Some people (or, morons as they are more commonly known) decided that moshing seemed like a great idea, and they tried and tried to get various pits going around the park. But, those thoughts were more or less squelched by the sheer volume of the crowd. There just wasn’t enough room for these people (again, MORONS) to have enough room. So we just all jumped and cheered, and most importantly, watched, as the defining band of my generation did what they do best.
It was amazing on the huge monitors to each side of the stage, during each and every song, was a specifically designed video for that song (done by the guitarist, Adam Jones). These played, and added another layer of ambience to an otherwise already stunning show.
The sound was crystal clear, and I was very surprised at that. I expected muddy sounding vocals, crunchy riffs and hollow sounding drums, considering the festival setting and not having a great deal of set-up time. But, the sound quality absolutely blew me (away). It was fantastic being able to hear Maynard amongst the powerful instruments, and it seemed as if each instrument was at the appropriate sound level. Nothing drowned anything else out. Top notch.
The show was very visual in nature, and in all honesty, it was flawless. Not once during the 90-minute set did my mind wander, I was completely entranced for their entire set, my eyes bouncing off the various visuals. The videos, the lights, the lasers, the band themselves. The lights and lasers were fun, and it really made it feel like an event. The backdrop was a spooky looking art piece of several heads or faces, and when the wind rushed through the curtain, the faces would ripple and you could see them change expressions. Very impressive.
As “Jambi” ended and we picked back up with “Stinkfist”, the crowd once again tried to turn this into a shitty show (with moshing), but it didn’t take yet again. It seemed people finally realized that they were at a Tool show, and to just freaking watch the show instead of trying to create their own, at least from where I was. “Stinkfist” was extended with solos, and it was funny to hear the crowd go into “I’ll….keep…..digging…” well before the band did. People had their expectations, and Tool threw them right out the window, because this is THEIR show. Not yours.
“46 & 2” followed, and kept the energy going at an insane rate. I’m pretty sure if you had some type of infrared solar signal from space pointed at Grant Park during this concert, you could see the adrenaline and testosterone from space. “Schism” slowed things down, but actually the crowd seemed to get even more amped up and involved, mainly because I believe that the album “Lateralus” was probably the first one most of the people in attendance listened to.
“Rosetta Stoned”, which is a personal favorite of mine, was intense. Maynard seemed to change the lyrics, and to be honest, I have no idea what the hell he said most of the time. It was awesome watching him pace back and forth at the top of the stage, almost walking in a militaristic style, speaking into the megaphone. And then he took off his clothes, and the crowd went crazy, as he performed the rest of the show in a tight black ball-hugging pair of short shorts. And it was grand.
The next song was “Flood”, and I’ll say this, it was probably my favorite performance of the night. There was just something about the music, coupled with the video, which just really set the perfect mood. Plus, I don’t think a lot of the other “Tool fans” in attendance had listened to Undertow, because after all, that album came BEFORE they were told by their friends to start listening to Tool. But the performance was surreal, and when Maynard came back to the stage and started the almost tribal moan, I got chills again.
And this is the point where I will point out to you that DANNY CAREY IS NOT HUMAN. The man is an absolute ALF (alien life form) behind the drums, and he creates sounds that I don’t think anyone else could. And he seems to do it all effortlessly. Which I’m sure is not accurate, because it obviously takes great effort and skill, but the man just looks so smooth and breezy that it just looks otherworldly what he does. I honestly doubt there is another drummer on his level in the world. It was amazing to watch him, and to realize that I was probably watching the best in the world at what he does.
Maynard was also very entertaining, and he seemed to be in very good spirits. He was dancing and moving, singing like he meant it, and was really quite funny on the microphone as well. He referred to the crowd as “stinky bastards” at one point, and I don’t think he was off base in the least in that assessment. He had a lot of funny quips, (as the Tool Army has named: Maynardisms).
“Lateralus” was a smooth song, and another great choice to play live. It’s another moody song, but really shows what true musicians these guys are. It’s complex and transcendent, and is one of their songs that show their diversity. They aren’t a screamo-thrash-metal band, no matter how much some of their fans want them to be (not me). They are artistic metal, in my mind the first and only of their kind, and they blend things together in such a way it’s like watching a masterpiece be painted right before your eyes.
The show ended with “Vicarious”, a powerful song to end with, and one that each person in attendance was sure to know. They played it to epic proportions to close the show, and sent a park full of people home buzzing at what they’d just seen.
This was the PERFECT live show, and there was absolutely nothing that could have made it any better. It was 90 minutes of Tool rocking Grant Park, and the setting was equally impressive. The skyline was lit up on this summer night, and we were standing on the very ground that current President Barack Obama delivered his Victory Speech on the night of the 2008 Presidential Election. All in all, a very impressive showing from my favorite band, one I believe is the defining band of my generation. The one that will live one, and be relived for decades to come. This, ladies and gentlemen, was Tool.
Score: 10/10 (PERFECT)
-Forty-Six & Two
-(Passage to Bangkok intro ->) Rosetta Stoned -Flood