Alterna-prog quartet Tool perform to yet another sold-out crowd in Phoenix

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Tool Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, Editor/Staff Photographer

Tool Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

There was something very unusual that I observed at the first (of two) Tool shows on Fri. Feb. 9 at Footprint Center. The funny thing was, it had nothing to do with the veteran quartet of thirty-plus years (and likely counting), judging by the loyal following they’ve amassed all these years later.

Elder Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

It had to do with the opening act, a band called Elder. For starters, the Boston-based quartet (Note: the current incarnation consists of vocalist/guitarist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, guitarist Mike Risberg, and drummer George Edert) hit the stage ten minutes early, at 7:20 p.m. Let me repeat that my friends—yes, I said ten minutes early.

Or put another way: in 41 consecutive years of attending concerts and ten years of reviewing shows professionally, I can honestly say that has never happened at any show I’ve been to. Ever. Dare I say, even some of the fans around me seemed surprised by that while rushing to their seats as the lights dimmed.

Next, they proceed to play a solid 35-minute set that featured a whopping three songs (opening song Sanctuary, Merged In Dreams-Ne Plus Ultra, and final song Halcyon, respectively) that were roughly 12-minutes each in length— give or take.

In short order, it took colossal balls for a relatively-unknown opening act (that’s existed for almost twenty years, mind you) to even conceive doing that— never mind possessing the ability to pull it off. That alone impressed me the most about Elder. I applaud Tool for allowing them the opportunity to perform for their fiercely loyal audience.

Truth be told, it’s fair to say they won over a good portion of the crowd that night with truly exceptional musicianship that I personally haven’t seen (again, from an opening act) in years. Two thumbs-up for Elder without a doubt.

Tool Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

Promptly at 8:30pm, Tool took the stage to roaring approval, opening the show with the 10-minute title track off its latest album, 2019’s Fear Inoculum. Lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan promised the crowd they would take them through a “little journey”. And they indeed delivered on that with a 2-hour,15-minute set.

Like Tool’s previous show in the Valley in Jan. 2022, the set list this time around consisted of the same six songs from the aforementioned Fear Inoculum. However, the band (which also consists of guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey) did change out a couple of older songs in the set for 2024. That keeps things fresh I suppose from the band’s perspective.

There was also a humorous “ground rule” that Keenan laid down early on in the show. For the most part, surprisingly, it worked!

“Put your fuckin’ phone in your pocket and leave it there. It’s only for two hours”, Keenan said in a playfully scolding manner. The audience gladly obliged.

The next two songs, Jambi and Rosetta Stoned, were the only ones played from the album 10,000 Days, released in 2006.

Tool Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

With Tool, the musicianship and the (disturbing?) visuals onstage go hand-in-hand. That’s why many of their fans flock to their shows every time the band tours— even without new music. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, that’s for you to decide, not me.

I think Keenan remains the only frontman in rock and roll who stays away from the front of the stage. Perhaps that adds to the band’s overall mystique surrounding them. It also showcases that, when all is said and done regarding Tool, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Of the tracks from Fear Inoculum, I would say that Pneuma probably got the loudest cheers of the night. And of course, the aforementioned title track as well.

Tool Concert at Footprint Center (Suns Arena) in Pnoenix, AZ on February 9th, 2024

I hesitate to use the word “jam” when it comes to Tool. Personally, when I think of jamming, I think of a band that takes a three or four minute song and extends it to nine or ten minutes onstage. By and large, Tool is a band that writes long songs to begin with.

Yes, the instrumental prowess is definitely present. But it’s within the song itself— that’s a significant difference in approach. My opinion, mind you.

The song that gave me a chill was the dark 13-minute epic Descending, which arguably straddles the fence between 90s alternative and 70s prog rock– with a credible, contemporary spin of course. They nailed it on that one.

I should add that Keenan made good on a promise to the crowd that “if you’re good, you can take out your phone on the last song”, which happened to be Stinkfist from 1996.

This year, it seemed they decided to play one “hit” (that rotates nightly) for the finale. I heard from a fan who attended the second Phoenix show (on Feb. 10) that Schism ended that set. I’ll concede that I wish they would’ve played it the first night. But I digress.

Overall, it was a solid show from a band where artistic integrity continues to prevail. Hopefully, fans won’t have to wait another 13 years for a new album. I look forward to seeing what they have up their creative sleeves next time.

The verdict for Tool’s 2024 Winter Tour? Four out of five stars— substantive arena rock will always matter.


Tool

Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2024, All Rights Reserved


Elder

Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2024, All Rights Reserved



Tool 2024 Winter Tour set list:
Fear Inoculum
Jambi
Rosetta Stoned
Pneuma
Sweat
Descending
The Grudge
12-minute intermisson:
Chocolate Chip Trip
Culling Voices
Invincible
Stinkfist

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