In support of its Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first studio album in 13 years, the Los Angeles-based, heavy rock band rolled out a tour stop in Cincinnati, Ohio, showcasing their foreboding, moody back catalog as well as the recent Billboard-topping effort. Offering nearly two hours of intricate guitar lines and rhythms, the band’s cult following was teeming at the opportunity to delve into their creepy alternate universe.
Comprised of vocalist Maynard James Keenan, bassist Justin Chancellor, drummer Danny Carey, and guitarist Adam Jones, the band began the set performing behind a floor to ceiling curtain made of strips of material that reflected the lush, if spooky, video images that accompanied the band. While Jones and Chancellor occupied the front positions, Carey’s kit was elevated via a riser mid-stage and two higher risers were set back on either side. It was from those stoops almost exclusively that Keenan, decked in plaid pants and a mohawk paced, prowled, lurched and bellowed.
With a strict photography and videography ban in place, the band it seemed were set on creating an immersive vacuum in which their devoted fanbase would be less distracted by the world’s noise. Although this served as an opportunity for some to go all-in, others saw the opportunity as a challenge in outsmarting flashlight-wielding venue security. At times watching this peculiar exchange between rock bro and hired helper served more entertaining than the animated stop-motion visuals and lasers that populated the band’s show.
Although “the show” is impressive, more impressive was the ease at which the group seemed to navigate their technically radical songs. Jones and Chancellor certainly had chances to show their prowess, in particular when Jones launched into a talk-box solo. Not to be sold short, the band’s encore began with Carey playing a 10-minute gong solo that ended with him flexing considerable rhythmic muscle behind the kit. It is important to note, that the live mix offered a punishing level of volume, which meant every one of these forays was felt in fillings and bones.
The band lifted their camera ban prior to the last song, an extended rendition of “Stinkfist,” for those hoping to capture it in pursuit of social media bravado.
As an aside, English post-punk band Killing Joke, who’ve long been an influence on industrial and quasi-metal rock, brought their unique blend of doom and gloom to the stage. With a mix that rivaled Tool’s in terms of volume, the quintet, comprised of four original members, demonstrated precisely why they were a complementary companion act for the occasion.
Review by Tim Anderl. Photos courtesy of Christopher Corn.