Live review: Tool, London The O2

‘No f*cking hit singles’, indeed: Tool take the road less travelled and still come up trumps in London…

Live review: Tool, London The O2
Nick Ruskell
Scott Moran

“We’re going to take you on a trip,” announces Maynard James Keenan. “Be present, make a connection, put your phones away. At the end, you can get them out to take a picture. If you’re good.”

Some people aren't. Before the end of tonight’s show, at least one person has been ejected from the venue for breaking the above request (as well as the unambiguous PA announcement, signs in the venue, and Tool’s history with this stuff), having fucked around and, presumably to enormous disappointment, found out. What they miss out on is, indeed, a trip, through a set in which the prog-metal quartet take any path but that of least resistance.

So, there no Stinkfist, no Sober, no Schism, no Ticks And Leeches. Even drummer Danny Carey’s epic solo isn’t his brilliant one from Fear Inoculum. But it’s a trip, so you’re not meant to know where you’re going. You’re meant to be surprised. You’re not supposed to know what you’re looking for in it. But when you get it, it's mind-blowing.

Starting with Jambi from 10,000 Days, and leaning heavily into Fear Inoculum material, even without the ‘hits’, it’s a spectacular journey of peaks and valleys, dark and light. In front of an enormous, eye-exhausting video wall showing all manner of psychedelic shapes, alien imagery, and patterns within patterns, there’s no reason you’d want to be distracted by your phone as two of your senses are given a feast.

As ever the band are on fire. Maynard’s even in a jokey mood when he does speak at the start, scolding the crowd’s response when he shouts out “London!” as being “Not even Manchester.” What’s most apparent, as ever, isn’t so much the oft-stated complexities of the music – and, as the only member properly lit behind his massive drum-kit-cum-space-station, complete with old-school sequencer and synthesiser, Danny is worth watching on his own if that’s what you’re after – but how fluid and simple it all seems.

As Pneuma, Fear Inoculum or Intolerance unfurl their grooves, the funny-shaped riffs and odd timings melt into music that at times has a similar free swing to Black Sabbath. It makes it all the more impressive when you zone in on, say, what Justin Chancellor’s bass is actually winding around Adam Jones’ riffs, or what Danny’s right hand is doing in comparison to his left. When you zoom out again, as a whole, it’s intimidatingly impressive, particularly with Maynard’s voice in such fine fettle.

Having taken the back roads, the response when The Grudge appears at the end of the main set is enormous. Ditto in the encore (preceded by the traditional onstage clock counting down) when Maynard allows everyone to get their “stupid fucking cellphones out” for closer Forty Six & 2.

But all this proves, once again, is that with Tool it’s not so much about the songs as the journey. What happens when they play, when they weave sound as one unit, is the cherry here. Such things require greatness. Fortunately, Tool answer that particular call every time.

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