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Tool Play First Show in Nearly Two Years, Kicking Off 2022 US Tour in Eugene, Oregon: Review + Setlist

Maynard James Keenan and company dusted off a few songs they hadn't performed in several years

Tool concert review
Tool, photo by Melinda Oswandel
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    Setting the Stage: “Jesus Christ,” Maynard James Keenan exclaimed on Monday night (January 10th). “Two years and 15 pounds of snacking later.”

    The notes of shock, excitement and relief in the singer’s voice as he said those words had already been thick in the air before Tool took the stage at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon for the band’s first live performance since March of 2020 — kicking off an extensive 2022 US tour that will run through late March (tickets available here). The capacity crowd was humming from the moment the doors opened and they formed a half-mile long line around the venue to snag something from the merch table. The audience buzzed all through opener Blonde Redhead’s set and only became more anxious as the minutes ticked toward the headlining band’s arrival.

    Undulating through all of it, though, was a distinct tone of exasperation. Tool’s strict policy barring the use of smartphones for filming, photo taking and even texting was a considerable point of contention. The already exhausted staff at the arena were constantly butting heads with various members of the audience, exhorting them to tuck their devices into their pockets when they weren’t reminding folks to put their masks back on.

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    This not-so-small contingent of the audience clearly wanted things to feel normal again at a moment when we’re far from the routine. Just ask all the artists who, two hours north in Portland, have been forced to cancel their gigs in the wake of rising infection numbers and hospitalizations. The first Tool show in nearly 700 days — taking place at the very arena where Tool were set to play next when the concert industry was shut down in 2020 — was certainly not a return to a pre-pandemic atmosphere, even if it did offer a momentary escape from reality.

    Taking the Stage: “This show is going to be flawless,” Keenan continued, punctuating his ironic comment with a loud cackle.

    It was a simple hedging of bets for the 57-year-old vocalist, who has twice battled COVID-19 during the pandemic. A way to let himself and his bandmates off the hook in case of flubbed lyrics or obvious screw ups. Later in the show, he commented on the fact that, though he had the lyrics for the set in front of him, he had a hard time reading them without his glasses. “Welcome to the idiot party,” he concluded right before the band slid into a churning version of 10,000 Days’ “Right In Two.”

    If there were any gaffes throughout Tool’s two-and-a-half hour set, they weren’t glaring enough to make much of a difference or entirely upend a song. The band members kept a close enough watch on one another to make sure they remained on the same page and in the same place in any given song, particularly during tunes with trickier time signatures like “Opiate” and “Right in Two.” During the latter, bassist Justin Chancellor spent much of Danny Carey’s drum breakdown staring at his bandmate as they helped guide each other throughout the song.

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    Keenan’s remark about the potential for collapse was perhaps justified when taking into account that in addition to performing five songs from their 2019 album, Fear Inoculum, Tool have peppered the setlist for this redux with tunes the band hasn’t tackled in some time. He even steeled himself at a certain point as a way of introducing “Hooker with a Penis,” a track from Ænima that, if Setlist.fm is to be believed, Tool hasn’t played live in eight years. “This is gonna hurt. This is the land of fear and dread,” Keenan said. He needn’t have worried. The band lanced the song like a boil, with Adam Jones’ guitar oozing distortion and Keenan’s lyrical vitriol spewing through a megaphone. “Pushit” and “Right in Two” were also among the songs that Tool dusted off after several years on the sidelines.

    Overall, Keenan kept his stage banter to a minimum. And, for as much as he likes to present himself in striking fashion for each tour (he has returned to the outrageous spiked mohawk and pronounced black eye makeup that he used for Tool’s 2019 and 2020 dates), he seemed to prefer skulking in the shadows. He used two platforms at the back of the stage, on either side of Carey’s voluminous drum rig — still elevated for all to see but dwarfed by the massive LED video screen behind him and the smaller ones beneath him.

    That was emblematic of a seeming desire by the members of Tool to be nothing more than part of a larger immersive experience. Only Carey took a spotlight turn to start the encore with a short drum and synth solo. For the rest of the set, he and Jones and Chancellor melted into the waves of lava or other psychedelic visuals that played across the screens around them. By way of emphasis, the confetti shower that signaled the end of the show came out of nowhere, gently dropping from above the middle of the arena rather than spewing from the stage itself.

    It was the perfect complement to the group’s mesmeric take on “The Patient,” a powerful statement of defiance and determination from 2001’s Lateralus. The song’s placement at near the end of the performance felt pointed, with its lyrics providing a prayer for all of us to repeat as we continue to wait out the end of this unsettled and unsettling period of human history. “Be patient,” Keenan sang with growing intensity to the air, now filled with shiny pieces of mylar and the swirl of his bandmate’s eddying psych-prog, “I must keep reminding myself of this.”

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    Solid Support: Blonde Redhead knew where they stood as they closed out their opening set on Monday night. Singer-guitarist Kazu Makino thanked the “Tool fans” in the house for their kind response even though many of them had never heard the Brooklyn-based trio before. In reality, the group was the perfect counterbalance to the headliner. Their music maintained a steady motorik course, whereas Tool happily zag through multiple time signatures. And Blonde Redhead’s sleek, sexy energy couldn’t be a stronger contrast against the headlining act’s muscular fury. The trio seemed to at least win some converts to their side, not to mention giving one audience member near me a small jolt as he watched Amadeo and Simone Pace explore the outer edges of shoegaze and Krautrock. “They have to be twins!” he hollered to anyone within earshot as the band departed the stage. Well spotted, young squire.

    Tool’s US tour runs through a March 20th show in Cleveland, after which the band will hit Europe in late April for a month-long run. Pick up tickets to the band’s upcoming concerts via Ticketmaster.

    Tool Setlist:
    Fear Inoculum
    Opiate
    The Pot
    Pushit (First Time Since 2014)
    Pneuma
    The Grudge
    Right In Two (First Time Since 2011)
    Hooker With A Penis (First Time Since 2014)
    Descending
    Chocolate Chip Trip
    Eon Blue Apocalypse
    The Patient
    Invincible

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