Shafty takes a welcome break from sucky work stuff to attend (and review) the "Bands That Are Named After Utensils that Can Be Used By Your Hands" concert. You can't possibly resist his analogy between Tool and a pair of cotton pants. You just can't. Just TRY and resist. TRY. No, wait, I was just kidding! Please read my review, I worked evar so hard at it!
Ten years ago, the world was a very different place, my friends. Some of you were four years old and, to you, the name "Tool" referred to an amorphous block of wood that could be placed in your Fisher-Price "Lil' Carpenter's Belt." Of course, that was also the thinking of Houston-area radio station general managers, program directors and music directors. You see, we've never had "trend-setting" radio here in Houston. Our stations are like the caveman guy in the Quizno commercials who, when offered the chance to wear pants, replied, "I fear change. So I shall keep my bush." Their response to Tool in 1992? "It isn't Metallica, I am AFRAIDS of it! No, hides me so that I don't have to leave my comfort zone and listen to anything NEW!"
Ahem. Well, something like that. And we Houston listeners, like the proverbial caveman leg hairs that never knew the comfort of cotton pants, continued to get itched and scratched by the itchiness and scratchiness of the bush (tired old boring crap) we were forced to endure every day. Until one fateful Thanksgiving day, when good ol' Shafty was a disk jockey at a college radio station, and some fateful (yes, fate x TWO) listener called in and asked to hear "Sober" by Tool. Shafty responded with his usual non-committal answer: "Umm, I'll see if I've got time."
Shafty did have time, as it turned out, and got interested in this band he'd never heard of. Long story short, Shafty has always been a casual Tool fan but, apart from Tool's brief appearance at Lollapalooza 1992, never bothered to see them live. Until Lateralus came out. Having read bits and pieces about it from various sources, Shafty rushed out and bought Tool's latest release on its release date. Lateralus remains, in my opinion, one of the best (non-Psychostick) albums to come out in the last 5 years. Dark, complex, great rhythms, thought-provoking and, unlike Undertow or Aenima (both of which I liked), something you could listen to over and over and over again, each time hearing it a little differently.
Tool came to Houston on July 27th, with Tomahawk opening. Yay! Shafty rushed out and bought his tickets from--yecch--Compaq Center (big NBA arena thing where the Rockets play and, not coincidentally, where the acoustics SUCK). The only tickets left, although labeled "obstructed view," were for Aisle 110, Row B, Seats 13 and 14. SECOND ROW. Yer. So here's how it went.
It has been my experience that any Mike Patton group always starts playing as soon as possible. So Shafty and his hon-ay showed up a little early for the concert, which was set to begin at 7:30. Which was good, because Tomahawk came on RIGHT at 7:30. Which was also bad, though, because Compaq Center f**ked up Shafty's tickets. See, the amps on the side of the stage blocked most of Row B, except seats 13 and 14, which had a PERFECT close-up view of the band. But Compaq, having sold tickets for Rows A through D, then decided--like the geniuses that they are--to tape those rows off so that nobody could sit there. Since the concert was sold out, a security guard prevented us from sitting in non-taped seats, and insisted on escorting us out to Customer Service to get alternate seats. While having to sort out that whole shibang, though, I had the pleasure of missing the first three Tomahawk songs. Not yer.
After we finally got new seats, the rest of the concert was fairly uneventful. The people standing in the mosh pit on the sold-out floor of Compaq, of course, couldn't appreciate anything they hadn't heard on the radio previously so, naturally, they stood around and gawked like the morons they are. Patton's usually a lot of fun to watch, live. He sways, crouches, roams around the stage like a lunatic, and says and does crazy shit. A show all by himself, essentially. But, because Tomahawk includes a lot of synthesizer and sample stuff in its music, Patton was confined for awhile to a bunch of equipment right in front of his microphone. Eventually he got loose long enough to do his little madman crouch and thrash routine. Which is good, because the rest of his band just stood around.
They were pretty good live, although it sounded a lot like if you were to hit the 'Random' button on your CD player, and turn the volume up really loud. (That is to say, their stuff sounded pretty refined, for live material.) As for song selection, it's not terribly hard to pick songs if you've released only one album. They missed out on "God Hates a Coward," though, which is one of the best tracks off the album. They also played one cover (which I didn't recognize, nor did anybody else), and what sounded like a new song. Which I enjoyed, until they went into about five minutes' worth of nothing but experimental noise--which is one of Patton's hobbies--during the middle of the song. I'm all for pushing the musical envelope, but a concert might not be the best place to break out your "taking a crap on the toilet while holding a microphone" recordings. Patton's in-between song banter is also pretty funny, most of the time. He usually goes out of his way to piss off the headliner, unless they have a pretty good sense of humor, including such comments over the years such as:
"I hear that Bret Michaels (from Poison) is so limber that he sucks his own ----"; and "Which band up here do you think does the most drugs? I think it's Aerosmith."
He also managed to piss off Axl Rose when the opened for Guns N' Roses back in '92, to the point that Faith No More's set was cut from 35 minutes to 20, and they didn't even get a dressing room. This concert was no different. He taunted and heckled fans who booed them, promised all of the high schoolers in the audience that "We'll be saying you at next year's prom," and ended with a comment that they were all going to go ram Maynard from behind. Good thing Tool has a sense of humor.
Shafty's Hon-ay: "They're weird, but I liked them. Patton's funny. I liked their uniforms the best."
Shafty: "Yes, this is not a lie."
|Sound/Acoustics: 3.5||Not Tomahawk's fault but, after all, it IS Compaq Center.|
|Stage Setup: 4.5||Minimal set. Good, but they oughta consider letting a roadie play the synthesizer to free up Patton.|
|Band Performance: 4.0||Patton's fun to watch. When he gets to do his thing, that is.|
|Song Selection: 4.0||With only one album, not much room for debate. Boo for not playing "God Hates a Coward," though.|
|Deathy/Heavyness: 4.0||What was with the experimental piece?|
Average Pluh Score: 4.0
One of the things I've always admired about Tool is that--unlike all the musicians out there who say, "It's about the music, mayunn, not the image."--Tool MEANS IT. They've always been suparr-possessive about photographs of the band, such that they insisted upon keeping editorial discretion of any photos that would be published in connection with a recent Guitar World feature. That mysteriousness also makes them more mysterious. Mysteriously. With mystery.
Being heroes of the anti-rock-star movement, Tool also eschews (vt. "to keep away from something harmful or disliked; shun; avoid; abstain from". Hey, lookie here: "fag": "vi. fagged, fagging "1. to work hard and become very tired. 2. to serve as a fag or servant.") a lot of the common "ideals" that rock stars have traditionally held to. For example, Tool didn't wait two hours after Tomahawk before they came on stage (*coughsGnRratbastardscoughcough*). In fact, it was probably only about 40 minutes or so before they came out. Likewise, they didn't cut their set short, waiting for the crowd to chant their name, stomp and all that usual self-aggrandizing crap, then reappear to do an "encore." Instead, they played a long, bitchin' set that, when it ended, it ENDED. Nor was there stupid in-between-song banter. Maynard only spoke twice, in between songs:
(1) As expected, he get the crowd yelling simply by saying "Houston" quietly. Then... "Houston?" More cheers. "HOUSTON?" Boisterous, rowdy cheering and stuff. Then heavy song. This is not unacceptable.
(2) After two of Tomahawk's members (singer Patton and the drummer, John Stanier) came out to assist Tool in an extended, dark jam session, Maynard thanked them and tried to make some witty comment about them and Asia or something. Nobody probably understood it but, naturally, we all laughed anyway. Then he thanked everybody for coming, and they played their last song. Again, not inappropriate.
In addition, unlike almost any other rock band, the singer stayed in the background the entire time. He stood on a platform back in the shadows, which was good given that he was barely clothed. Eeew... *vomits* There's another not-so-surprising reason (which we found out when the band joined together at the front of the stage after the last song) that Maynard doesn't hang out in front with Adam (guitars) and Justin (bass): he's short. VERY, VERY SHORT. But, then again, he kicked our ass all night long, so I guess Shafty can forgive him his diminuitiveness.
Maynard: Wear Clothes.
Wait a damn minute, I haven't talked about the music itself yet. They opened up with "Sober," which kind of surprised me. That being their biggest "hit," I figured it would be last or, at least, a little later in the set. In any event, it immediately got EVERYBODY into the concert because, after all, if you don't recognize "Sober," why would you have paid to go to a Tool concert? The rest of the set included mostly material from Lateralus, including "The Grudge," "Parabola," "The Patient," and "Schism" (naturally), along with a little bit of stuff from other albums sprinkled in every now and then. Curiously, although Maynard exhorted us right before the last song to start having sex immediately, they never played "Prison Sex." Instead, they ended with a destroying version of "Lateralus" itself.
Listening to a Tool album, you might get the sense that a lot of their stuff might not translate well to a concert because it's, well, quiet. But even the really quiet stuff ended up heavy, partly because the juiced crowd was shouting lyrics back at Maynard all night long. The effect was heightened by the elaborate background and dual video screens that played stuff similar to Tool videos. As usual, the video screens showed suffering, deformed, screaming, moaning clay-creation humans, and a screaming real man and woman. The woman was naked. Yay? No. Boobies on a woman who appears to be screaming and in pain just aren't quite as neato as the non-screaming version. But it gave the entire concert an ominous, even spooky, tone that underscored the darkness and black deathyness that is Tool. (EDITAR'S NOTE: The dramatic journalistic-type ending that Shafty was striving for was ruined when he accidentally farted. Loudly.)
Shafty's Honay: "Tool is sick and demented."
Shafty: "Yes, I thought they were cool, too."
|Sound/Acoustics: 3.5||*sigh* Ah, for the good old days when Tool didn't play massive arenas.|
|Stage Setup: 5.0||Mysterious! Dark! Cool video!|
|Band Performance: 5.0||So they stand around. Who cares--they kick ass.|
|Song Selection: 4.5||Yay, I likes new stuff! But where, oh where, was Prison Sex?|
|Deathy/Heavyness: 5.0||Even the "quiet" stuff was heavy.|
Average Pluh Score: