Tool puts on mindblowing spectacle

Calling it a concert doesn’t do it justice. What Tool gave fans at the Cedar Park Center on Tuesday night was an experience. The music was amazing and the light show was the best I’ve ever seen. It was a pretty far cry from the act that opened the 6,800-seat venue — country artist George Strait. Not the kind of show I ever expected to see in Cedar Park.

For Cedar Park, the 6,800-seat venue is a pretty big deal. For Tool, a band that’s used to playing in 20,000-seat arenas, it was an “intimate setting.” I’m not sure if it was a sell-out or not, but it had to be close. The place was packed full of die-hard Tool fans. Some traveled in from the far reaches of Texas, probably quite a few out-of-state folks as well. I felt pretty lucky to see them in my own town, on a press pass no less. I talked to one guy who said he’d been to five Tool shows and this was his favorite.

Things got intense pretty quickly, with a thunderous version of “Third Eye,” introduced by a projected image of ’60s guru Timothy Leary. “Think for yourself and question authority….” After that, the band played one hit after another, accompanied by computer animations, lasers and clips from their famously creepy videos. I think they got something from every album including Undertow. “Aenima” was a special crowd pleaser. Everyone knew the words.

The stage arrangement was unusual. In most bands, “frontman” is synonymous with lead singer, but Maynard James Keenan stood on a raised stage at the back, alongside drummer Danny Carey. Most of the time, with the lights and images projected on the wall behind him, all you could see of the lead singer was a silhouette. Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor stood in front on either side of the stage. Everyone but Maynard looked like rock ‘n’ roll guys, with long hair and scowls. Maynard on the other hand, wore a T-shirt, shorts and a cap, and on his feet were big oversized fuzzy bunny slippers with scary teeth. Definitely not your typical metal singer get-up. I got the idea that 1. it was about the art, not him; and 2. don’t take it too seriously. I don’t think he’s interested in running any kind of cult.

Together with the music, the light show was very hypnotic. There were geometric shapes, some linear, most fractal. Sometimes the band appeared to be playing under the ocean, or inside the sun. Lots of visions from those videos with their weird homunculi. All in all a very intense experience. It will take a lot to top this one for me. I love the lo-fi indie groups, but it’s great to see a band with so much muscle and musical know-how.

Only negative for me was my persistent problem with rock show tinnitus. I stuffed tissue paper in my ears (I’ve tried earplugs, but they block out too much), but it was still so loud that I could just hear the instruments and a bit of squelchy noise. If I  wanted to hear Maynard I had to stick my fingers in my ears as well. It worked though, and no ringing ears today, so I’m satisfied. Anyone else deal with that problem at concerts?

Allen Rhodes took some great photos for us. I wanted to post one in my blog, but I don’t want to get him in trouble. He had to sign an agreement stating that the pics would only be used for one publication, The Hill Country News.

Note: I had a link to the gallery, but the Hill Country News has since changed its website format (also, I’m working somewhere else now) and the link died.  The pics are still there, however. Go to Hill Country News, enter tool in the search and pick “image.”

Woven Hand

I got a big kick out of the opening band, Woven Hand, which was new to me. The group sounded rather dark and sinister as you would expect. Tribal sounding drums with a bit of a Native American feel, a singer with a deep voice, playing guitar while seated. At times he did a sort of glossolalia. Not exactly metal, but close enough for most metal fans, especially ones open minded enough for Tool. At first I thought, hey, he’s doing a scary evil cult schtick. Then I started to get suspicious and looked them up on the web via my cellphone. Sure enough, they’re a Christian band, or at least a band that does Christian songs. The singer and guitarist is David Eugene Edwards, formerly of the alternative country group 16 Horsepower, pretty well-known group in indie circles.

Isn’t it just like Tool to mess with people’s heads like that, bringing along a band people probably thought was doing devil music that turned out to be a Christian band. And btw, I liked the music. I had to eat some of my words from my recent blog post: Must Christian pop culture always suck? (Probably)

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Filed under metal, review, rock

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