to swim: (l-r) Adam Jones, Maynard James Keenan, and
Justin Chancellor of Tool.
Photo: Martin Benjamin
Tool, Big Business
Union Center, July, 14
The Times Union Center felt like a doctor’s office on Saturday
night. Going to a doctor isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It
is sometimes enjoyable to marvel at their impressive gadgetry
and general wealth of knowledge. Then again, there was supposed
to be a Tool concert going on.
took the sterile, white stage as roadies in white lab coats
scurried about. The band got off to a driving start with “Jambi,”
the second track from their latest album, as lead singer Maynard
James Keenan posed like an awkward male Madonna in front of
a video screen, tipping his cowboy hat and kicking his cowboy
boots in the air. It looked as though he was riding the song
like a bull.
There was to be none of the legendary Keenan cross-dressing.
When the band jumped quickly into “Stinkfist,” off Aenima,
Keenan’s posturing spoke louder than his words, as his vocals
barely registered above the thunder of his band.
A powerful run-through of Aenima track “Forty Six and
2” was the last of that album the band would play for the
night. Except for “Flood” from the 1993 breakthrough album
Undertow, the rest of the set was dominated by some
of the band’s long-players from their last two, less-inspired
albums, 10,000 Days and Lateralus.
By the end of “Flood,” space-ray-like props had lowered from
the ceiling to shine lights at the crowd. It felt like we
were being probed.
The oceanic waves of “Wings for Marie” and “10,000 Days” were
disorienting and sedating. Not a note was missed, not a beat
out of place; in this perfection, everything was glimmering
and shiny, and in some ways, completely boring.
Finally the space rays started spraying green lasers overhead
that were both pretty and captivating. It felt a little like
being a child distracted by a mobile while getting a painful
Halfway through the leviathan span of “Lateralus,” a song
menacing and awe-inspiring for both its gaping length and
ever-shifting rhythm, Big Business drummer Coady Willis joined
the band on stage for the concert’s only true moment of spontaneity:
a drum duel with Tool drummer Danny Carey. With his small
kit and his bashing-pots-and-pans style, Willis (who slammed
it out with Dale Crover of the Melvins during that band’s
last tour) upstaged Carey, who employed a massive golden drum
kit, flush with a sequencer and gong, to lesser effect.
Meanwhile, the other band members kept themselves busy. Keenan
donned a white lab coat and started placing potted plants
in front of his microphone stand. It seemed he was trying
to play up his insignificance while paying tribute to the
drummers, but by walking around the stage in a lab coat with
trees in his hands, Keenan ensured that the crowd’s attention
would stick with him.
would be the band’s last song of the night. All it would have
taken was an encore to solidify the concert as a solid if
not great experience, but none came. There was no “The Pot,”
no “Sober,” no “Eulogy”—not even “Prison Sex.” Instead, the
house lights came up and the monstrous space rays that had
stalked the crowd so menacingly earlier in the night now hung
exposed, naked in the air.
I gladly would have traded the light show for just two more