Folks, I thought I’d seen some pretty terrific shows in my time: Pearl Jam was a blast and Arcade Fire unbelievably good and the Pixies tight and polished. I saw a performance of Buckwheat Zydeco in Vancouver years ago that I remember with great fondness—Sherron and I danced for two hours straight. And, of course, Stacey was there. God, I miss ya, chum.
I have never, ever seen anything that remotely compares to Tool. It’s not just the music, it’s the music and the musicianship and the stage presence and the visuals, all in the service of bringing to life the nightmarish musings of one Maynard Keenan.
The diminutive figure never left the small, raised platform at the rear of the stage. He didn’t once move forward to join his mates…and yet his presence dominated. When he was singing, conducting…or standing stock still, seemingly as bewitched by the music as we were. He’s the emotional core, the central defining figure. Adam gives terrific interviews and is the pleasant, human face of the band. Maynard has little truck with explanations, analysis. He can be an acerbic motherfucker (remember, he used to hang out with Bill Hicks). Impatient with the superficial interrogations of vacuous video jocks. It’s all about art, he keeps insisting (suspecting it’s falling on deaf ears).
The set list featured lots of material from “10,000 Days”, inspired jams that still managed to hit visual cues perfectly, staying in synch with the bizarre video snippets and montages constantly playing on four stage level screens and two overhead brutes. The footage is mesmerizing, the dope fiends in the audience must have been swooning. It’s grim stuff: Lovecraftian uglies, chimeras, mutants…and then a sequence with Beckett-ian figures, forsaken yet persisting, godless and inexorably bound for the abyss.
I feel privileged to have taken in the show last night at the Credit Union Centre. I’m grateful I was able to share the best musical night of my life with my two buds Laird and Jess. It was fucking cold—the windchill had to be close to -30 Celsius—but we toughed it out, didn’t we boys? And afterward we stood around and looked at each other, at a loss to explain or digest what we had just seen.
Something special happened last night. It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m still buzzing. Can’t sleep. Trying to absorb it all. Maynard, boys: thank you. You put your heart and soul into the show…and throughout your career you’ve never compromised or catered to the expectations of others. There’s a reason I was there last night and I think it was to remind me of the importance of integrity. The members of Tool have repeatedly defended their artistic freedom and autonomy. They stuck to their guns and are now reaping the rewards. It’s a reassuring theme to take to bed with me and it might just get me to sleep tonight.