Witnessing the spectacle that is TOOL live in concert compounded with the opportunity to write a review poses a unique kind of challenge–the challenge being that you are often left literally lost for words following their show. This was the case following The LA quartet’s first appearance in Dublin in 16 years at the 3Arena last night. Touring in support of their latest album, 2019’s ‘Fear Inoculum’, a progressive metal masterpiece and the fifth album by TOOL (the first in 13 long years), anticipation was at an all-time high for Irish music fans last night.
Among an audience seemingly made up entirely of die-hards, ranging from the unruly to the madly impassioned, and with temperatures in the city picking up ahead of an early May weekend upon the band’s arrival, the atmosphere quickly erupted into heated rapture at the gig’s outset.
The opening bars of the title track “Fear Inoculum” found the enigmatic band shrouded in a mysterious, reflective curtain as they took to the stage. Repeated swells of audio built and built until frontman Maynard James Keenan ominously assumed position towards the rear of the stage. Shrouded in secrecy and mostly in darkness, the fan’s response to the performance elicited a somewhat out-of-character retort from the vocalist: “Holy shit, we’re in Dublin.” Keenan repeated the phrase, seemingly in complete awe and expressing a genuine sense of appreciation, wonder, maybe bemusement at the overwhelming support of the crowd after such time apart.
Following this first meandering and complex tune, TOOL came straight out of the gate with the fan favourite and live rarity, “Sober”. Justin Chancellor’s immediate and recognisable bass riff transported the crowd straight back to the band’s earlier, grungier days and was welcomed with huge applause and cheers. Whipping up an already frenzied fan base to the edge, TOOL then followed with the impossibly catchy, stirring mainstream rock-radio single “The Pot” whereupon Keenan’s vocals were at the risk of being drowned out by the unanimous impassioned singing of the crowd.
Guitarist and key visionary to the group, Adam Jones gently strummed the opening notes of “Pushit”, again to an insane but understandable rapture of the audience. The accompanying visuals presented a distinctly TOOL-oriented form of body horror imagery, harking the descent of an ominous heptagram symbol overhead. Justin Chancellor throbbed, physically and audibly on the right of the stage, as Keenan behind him muttered eerie, distant poetry. The enraptured crowd was transported from a live concert experience to something more akin to a cult-like ceremony.
“Pushit”’s interlude of seeming calm was soon broken, as Maynard harrowingly screamed the closing lines of the song concluding with one of many epic climaxes of the set, resulting in an immediate and glorious standing ovation as the shroud around the stage parted symmetrically from the centre. A brief interlude following the song gave Maynard the opportunity to audibly ponder the question of whether or not the audience is tired. Suggesting that he, a 58-year-old concurrently suffering from a bout of food poisoning is able to remain standing up, why shouldn’t the crowd of the 3Arena? He also warned us that with this bout of ill health he may well be at risk of creating spectacle and shitting himself on stage.
Such candour gave way to an intimate and introspective performance of “Pneuma”. Fractal visuals enveloped the stage and the flanking screens as lasers emerged en-masse, pointing out to the furthest reaches of the auditorium. Maynard vanished off-stage during the song’s instrumental intersection. The atmosphere suddenly changed with a spectral eruption of colour and immersive visuals for the song’s riveting close-out as Maynard strikingly re-emerged from the shadows at the back of the stage. “Pneuma” is an introspective, celebration of life and being alive, reaffirmed in last night’s majestic performance.
Further bombastic visual elements of Tool’s live production stole the show during performances of “The Grudge” and “The Patient” and the complete audio-sonic experience presided absolutely over the four individuals of the band, now seemingly shrouded in darkness amidst the hypnotic, otherworldly atmosphere being created onstage. A black pyramid then rose on the screen behind the silhouetted band, building an imposing structure with Chancellor and Jones circling drummer Danny Carey and his extraterrestrial-like drum kit at the pyramid’s base.
The alluring cast metal heptagram logo took on a searching spotlight quality as it hovers above. Transcendent swells from the electric guitars engulfed the arena, generating an empirical, tribal soundtrack. Carey’s percussive mastery shone particularly for much of this song, showcasing delicate cymbal led patterns and unique integration of the synthesizing instruments which encircle him. Adam Jones’ own application of otherworldly synth by way of his foot-operated Taurus pedals just demonstrated the full versatility and musical mastery these individuals possess and their ability to create compelling and utterly captivating soundscapes live onstage. Mesmerised by what they were witnessing, many in attendance began to immerse themselves in the driving aural overload, throwing physical shapes with their heads and appendages, transported on the journey of TOOL’s music.
A smash of Carey’s utterly gigantic gong led broke the trance and the way to an epic finale of one of the indisputable highlights of their set-closing out “Descending”. Excitement illuminated the faces of guitar aficionados in the audience as Jones put down his iconic signature ‘79 Silverburst Gibson Les Paul to don a truly legendary instrument: original Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green’s Les Paul, dubbed “Greeny”. The legendary axe, having changed hands from Green himself to Ireland’s own Gary Moore before recently finding its way into the private collection of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett found its way to TOOL’s stage last night, now in the hands of the contemporary virtuoso Adam Jones. Appearing on tracks all the way from Albatross to Thin Lizzy’s “Black Rose”, Greeny now finds itself the cornerstone to the amusingly titled “Hooker With A Penis”. Opening with a scorching solo by Jones, the band changed into a chaotic, stirring rendition of one of Tool’s absolute heaviest numbers.
After a deserved intermission, Carey resumed position amidst kaleidoscopic live-camera footage inside his futuristic percussion circle for his unpredictable solo performance of “Chocolate Chip Trip”. Drenching in sweat he masterfully utilised his Moog modular, programming an ingenious synthesised loop in order for him to take up his throne and inventively integrate a rollicking drum solo, executed with style and humility from a bonafide master of the instrument.
The band closed out on a genuinely moving performance of “Culling Voices” and “Invincible” respectively. The latter was indescribably epic and invigorating, executed with precision and visceral integrity. The concert came to a close with 9,000+ individuals in complete and utter awe of the previous 2 hours – an experience transcending the boundaries of ‘gig’ into the realm of a life-altering experience for the ages.
TOOL was supported by Brass Against who dutifully warmed up the feverish Dublin audience with their own exciting renditions of “Stinkfist” and “Forty-Six & 2” amongst other well-known tracks by Rage Against The Machine, Led Zeppelin and more.
TOOL’s‘Opiate²‘short film available now via Blu-Ray
The band’s first video in 15 years previewed in a newly-released clip
TOOL’s first video in 15 years, ‘Opiate2,’ is released today. A three-minute preview of the Blu-Ray short film is viewable here (https://tool.lnk.to/Opiate2clip).
‘Opiate2′ is a re-imagined and extended version of TOOL’s 1992 single ‘Opiate,’ with both the song and video marking the 30th anniversary of the EP of the same name’s release.
Housed in a 46-page art book with behind-the-scenes and making-of photos, the ‘Opiate2′ Blu-Ray also includes interviews and insights from special guests. Visual artist Dominic Hailstone (‘Alien: Covenant’, ‘The Eel’) worked with Adam Jones on the 10-plus minute film. The clip continues TOOL’s knack for merging the aural and visual worlds, creating an all-encompassing experience for the listener that has been a hallmark of the outfit since their inception. Hailstone and Jones also collaborated on the filmed pieces featured on the current Fear Inoculum tour.
TOOL also recently announced the arrival of Fear Inoculum on vinyl, with the Ultra Deluxe set arriving April 8. The collection features 5 x 180g vinyl discs emblazoned with a unique etching on the album’s B-side, and accompanied by an elaborate pictorial booklet including never-before-seen artwork. The limited-edition collection, which also features a new cover, is housed in a hard shell box.
May 6 Dublin, IE 3Arena May 9 London, UK The O2 Arena May 10 London, UK The O2 Arena
May 12 Paris, FR AccorHotels Arena
May 13 Antwerp, BE Sportpaleis
May 15 Berlin, DE Mercedes-Benz Arena
May 17 Cologne, DE Lanxess Arena
May 19 Amsterdam, NL Ziggo Dome
May 21 Krakow, PL Tauron Arena
May 23 Prague, CZ O2 Arena
May 24 Budapest, HU SportAréna