Tool performs to sold-out crowd in the Valley for a third time on its ‘Fear Inoculum’ tour

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Tool - Photo by Travis Shinn, courtesy of Speakeasy PR

By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer

Tool – Photo by Travis Shinn, courtesy of Speakeasy PR

There’s something to be said about a band who has little interest in merely rehashing past glories on tour. While that may be disappointing to some, it’s safe to say that most fans who attended the Tool concert on Fri. Jan. 21 at Footprint Center knew full well what they were in for— and by and large— it wasn’t the “hits” they were expecting.

Given that this was my first time seeing Tool live, what struck me the most was how musically precise and tight this band is live. Opening the (roughly) 2-hour,20-minute show with the 10-minute title track from its latest album Fear Inoculum, Tool ended up playing six out of the album’s seven tracks— for better or worse— depending on your level of acceptance for new material in a concert setting.

Next came another title track, this time Opiate from 1992. Visually, the best way I can describe the images displayed via rear-screen projection was one of a twisted anatomy lesson for the eyes throughout the performance. As disturbing as some of the imagery was, it certainly fits with the overall pace and mood of the show.

I should add this: lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan is probably the only frontman in rock and roll that I’ve seen spend the least amount of time at the front of the stage!

Because of that, it put the spotlight directly on the exceptional talent of the band (lead guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey), and deservedly so. For the record, that’s something that I’ve never seen a lead singer do in nearly forty years of attending concerts. Impressive indeed.

One thing regarding Keenan. I absolutely cringed when he sarcastically “congratulated” Arizona on having “the highest number of positive COVID cases in the country” that day.

Even worse, there were some in the crowd that roared in approval! In short order, that was nothing less than shameful. In other words, they missed Keenan’s point completely.

Anyway, of the older tunes played, I suppose Pushit was probably the surprise of the night. Hooker With A Penis ended the first set prior to a 12-minute intermission.

During this time, I had to sort of “replay” everything in my head that I had just seen. I realized that the band only played nine songs in 90 minutes. For any veteran arena headliner with at least five studio records to its name, I personally find that unacceptable.

But… to be fair, the songs that were played average around ten minutes each. Considering how intricately arranged and complex some of those songs are, I imagine the band is pretty exhausted by that point. To that end, I’ll extend the courtesy given these circumstances.

The band then return for a three song “second set” of songs from Fear Inoculum that took up about 30-minutes (Chocolate Chip Trip, Culling Voices, and Invincible, respectively.)

Regarding Chocolate Chip Trip (basically a drum arrangement from Carey with percussion programming incorporated), it kind of reminded me of something Rush’s late drummer Neil Peart might compose. That’s probably the highest compliment I could pay it.

To conclude, I was impressed overall with Tool’s performance on this night. However, I may just respect them more for their continued, uncompromising quest for art over commerce. To that point, those of you who miss Rush, might just find Tool to be a suitable choice to fill the void… a little bit. ☹

The final verdict? Four out of five stars— it’s worth seeing. 👍🏾

Val Tapia is a self-appointed critic and enthusiast of music commentary and criticism. His work has appeared in two of Arizona’s most prominent newspapers— the East Valley Tribune and The Arizona Republic— respectively. Val was also a reporter and host on 24-hour local music video channel 38 IZ Videos.

Tool Setlist:
Fear Inoculum
Opiate
The Pot
Pushit
Pneuma
The Grudge
The Patient
Descending
Hooker With A Penis
12-minute intermisson
Chocolate Chip Trip
Culling Voices
Invincible

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