The rock band, Tool, never appears on MTV’s Total Request Live. Many radio stations shy away from many of the band’s music because it lacks repetitive, catchy hooks and choruses found in most pop music.
Tool defies the prototype for a successful band.
But the band consistently sells out concerts throughout the country, sells millions of CDs and is among one of the top grossing rock bands.
Maynard James Keenan, the band’s lead singer, rarely talks to the press and avoids becoming the band’s centerpiece, as many lead singers in rock bands tend to do. During much of his performance he faces his back to the audience and toward the visual screen at the back of the stage.
Tool’s art is dark and its music it highly metaphorical and difficult to understand unless followed carefully with an open mind.
Tool’s album cover art never features band members and the music videos always feature unhuman-looking creatures being tormented by whatever the song deems is the oppressor – that being one impression of the many folds inherent in anything with the Tool does.
Tool succeeds by focusing on the art, which is rare today when image and marketing are key in making a band successful – at least financially successful.
Tool has kept its cult-like following from Colorado happy lately, appearing three times in three months. July 21 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Friday, Oct. 11, at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, and Sunday, Oct. 13, at the World Arena in Colorado Springs.
Friday, outside Coors Event Center, thousands of people eagerly waited for Tool, many impatiently and screaming for the opening band to get off the stage.
The band’s music and performance relies heavily on its ability to create a climax, a moment where energy erupts after a long setup of harmonic and captivatingly beautiful riffs.
The first song played was “Sober,” the song from the album “Undertow,” which first gave the band notoriety. A fan favorite, the song immediately increased the energy in the building, especially after a 20-minute prologue of heavy distortion accompanied by progressing visuals before the band came on stage.
The next song, “The Grudge,” from the “Lateralus” album, raised the energy level even more than “Sober.” The song builds from heavy to soft, to thunderous and beautiful. The lights and screen effects synchronize with each thunder from the bass and drums and Keenan’s stiff leg stomps.
The performance climaxed with a song from “Aenima” called “Forty-six and two.” The song is popular among fans and has a catchy part of that builds the lyrics, “I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I don’t miiiind.” On Friday, Keenan switched the song right before the catchy lyrics. The audience kept singing while Keenan, dressed in a black jumpsuit with a huge black line painted down the center of his face, stood, with his back to the audience, staring at the visual screen at the back of the stage.
The band, then, went into an interlude for about two minutes and the audience was lost without any idea where the band was taking them.
Finally the audience, after the brief cool down, erupted when the band went back to where the song left them, finishing the familiar lyrics.
The rest of the performance progressed building climaxes with in each song and climaxing and as a hole.
The main performance ended with the song “Opiate” from their first album, “Opiate.” Stringent followers of the band best know the song. “Opiate” climaxed the entire performance and left fans gasping.
The band exited the stage leaving, again, distortion and visuals.
The encore started slowly with an instrumental and climaxed to an intense drum solo. The solo’s rhythm both calmed and excited the audience.
Finally, the performance ended with the song “Lateralus,” from the album “Lateralus.” The song put an exclamation point on a very energy-driven, exhausting, yet revitalizing, spiritual experience.
Keenan, who rarely speaks to his audience, ended by telling the fans to take something from the band’s performance.
“I hope you can all go home taking a piece of this with you,” Keenan said. “I hope you can turn this energy into something positive.”
Tool has only made three albums in 10 years, which is easily understood given the complexity and intimate detail that comes in each note, riff, rhythm, and lyric in a song.
Don’t expect many chances to see the band perform live in Colorado, Tool is like a hundred years flood: it hits you swift and unexpectedly, then goes away and doesn’t come back for a while.