Photos by Stuart Mckay
It being over ten years since Tools last album release (10000 Days, 2006), fans were biting their nails across the globe waiting for the release of 2019’s Fear Inoculum, and with even more baited breath, awaiting the release of tour dates that would presumably follow. I know, I was one of them. It was that nostalgic feeling (but with better technology) of sitting at your computer with sweaty palms constantly hitting the refresh button so you didn’t miss out on tickets. Needless to say, this was a night to unite the motley crew of Perth’s Tool fans and make believers of them once again. And what better night to do it then Valentines day?
Tool, ya did good!
Preceding Tool was a one man steampunk metal extravaganza that was Author and Punisher, AKA mechanical engineer Tristan Shone. Shone uses instrumentation and controllers custom designed by the man himself, which he has dubbed ‘drone machines’. Shrouded behind a cage that flashed eerily in different shades of red, the innovative Shone set the scene brilliantly. With his almost post apocalyptic, industrial doom metal sounds, he resonated a mix of Nine Inch Nails vs Rammstein, with some very Trent Reznor vocals reverberating out every so often. I was given the sense of impending doom with every rise and fall of his epic bass-fueled sound that carried to every corner of the cavernous space of RAC Arena. Definitely an awesome support act to Tool as it spoke of the more sinister things in music and created a scene of ‘edge of your seat’ kind of thrill.
With a steel curtain falling around the stage everyone in the room tensed, knowing that Tool were but minutes away from delivering their epic sound (I don’t use the word epic lightly). The immense crowd was getting restless, and as the first notes of ‘Fear Inoculum’ rang out I could imagine anyone waiting in the extensive line to get drinks was now running full pelt back into the arena. Images began appearing on the massive curtain surrounding the band depicting everything from gruesome skulls to the brilliant works of Alex Gray (who creates their psychedelic album covers). It turned an amazing moment musically into an amazing feast for the eyes. Needless to say it was the perfect opening to their show, dragging everyone into their dark womb of sound with the haunting single of their latest album.
Tool’s infamous lead singer, Maynard James Keenan gave a brief welcome to Perth fans before going straight into the well known intro of ‘Aenima’ (much to mine, and everyone’s delight). Behind the curtain, which was now emitting strobes in time to the crazy time schemes of Danny Carey’s drumming, you could just see the outline of Maynard’s mohawk making everyone strain their eyes to get a closer look. But as per his usual stage presence, he stayed hidden for now. The film clip to ‘Aenima’ was playing in the backround bringing Alex Gray’s artwork to life on a huge scale… again, it was epic.
As with most of Tool’s albums, you could tell that this set list was well thought out and that they were telling a story in which everyone was a character. Tool’s intricate way of subverting the time structure within their music was even more palpable live and watching each and every band member as they went from ‘Parabol’ to ‘Parabola’ was like watching a well rehearsed synchronised dance. As I was in the line of vision for Justin Chancelor, the bassist, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this instrument even more, he didn’t miss a freaking note. Their sound translated in studio quality despite the size of the venue.
Finally the curtains began to inch apart, revealing Maynard in crouched position ready to pounce as they entered into the sound of ‘Pnuema’, another from their latest album. Now that the curtains had parted, Maynard began to move around the stage more, at one point being almost completely visible behind a layer of smoke. But the person no one could keep their eyes off was the animalistic drumming of Danny Carey. 10/10.
And then there was ‘Schism’. What can I say, I think I, like a lot of Tool fans out there were hoping against hope that they would play this and the reaction was the biggest yet. Not only emphasising yet again Chancellor’s insane abilities on the bass with its enigmatic bass line that every Tool fan has gotten stuck in their head for way too long before, but also bringing to light the talents of guitarist, Adam Jones.
I was living my dream and seeing the enthusiastic, on the point of crying faces of the people around me, I knew I was not alone.
They played an eclectic mix of new and old with every member of the band doing what they do best and probably doing it better than anyone on the planet. Before long the curtain began to close around them once again as the sounds of ‘Forty Six And Two’ filled the arena. This track, again from the 1996 album Aenima, was a perfect close before the encore. To see Danny Carey’s drum solo in this song was amazing live, something to tick off the bucketlist.
After the band recognised their ever reverent crowd they walked offstage to be replaced by a 12-minute timer, which many people used as a chance to grab another drink. Not I. I watched that clock tick down the minutes until they would come back and was pleased not to lose my spot in the huge crowds that had filled the place to breaking point.
When they (finally) came back out we were treated to yet more of Danny Carey’s magnificence as he carried out a lengthy drum solo involving a gong which everyone has mentioned since seeing the gig, and now I could see why. With a kaleidoscopic birds eye view of him working his magic projected on the screen you could really see his brilliance in action in his solo on ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’, which led into ‘Invincible’, before they finally ended this saga with the classic ‘Stinkfist’. My oh my, what a mind-blowing experience, I’m almost lost for words which makes writing this review difficult.
As an avid Tool fan since my early teenage years, I felt blessed to be able to see them again in this capacity. As with all of their albums, one left with a sense that they had just been infiltrated with some kind of subconscious knowledge of this very unstable world we live in and as always they left me literally mind-blown. Tool, ya did good!