TOOL at Viejas Arena by Josh Claros for ListenSD

Prog-metal icons Tool led their fans to another dimension at Viejas Arena with Author & Punisher supporting.

If you’ve seen Tool live, then you know they aren’t your run-of-the-mill band. They meticulously create a mind and body experience that will have you walking away from the show enlightened, questioning realities, and opening up your mind.

To set the stage, Author & Punisher dealt hard hitting, heavy doom with instruments called “Dub Machines” and “Drone Machines” created by the artist Tristan Shone himself. The unique sounds filled the arena with hypnotizing lights and pulsing bass.

Reeling from the intensity of Author & Punisher’s industrial metal sounds, the audience settled into their seats with heightened anticipation of Tool’s first of two shows in San Diego. This show launched their second tour supporting their latest album Fear Inoculum. Thirteen years of waiting for new music, new visuals, and new realms to enter, the audience was brimming with energy. The stage, shrouded in an opaque veil, gave an air of mystery when suddenly the unmistakable sounds of “Fear Inoculum” echoed through the venue. Danny Carey’s drum beats precisely intertwining with Justin Chancellor’s driving bass lines; Adam Jones’ melodic guitar riffs and Maynard James Keenan’s beautifully haunting voice elicited a resounding cheer from the audience. Keenan, known for his stage antics and outfits, was clad in red plaid pants with a black leather jacket, a spiked black and red mohawk, and a face painted with black, clown-like accents. He moved from one platform of the stage to the other, creeping around in the shadows, dancing and swaying to the music.

The band’s setlist was filled with all the heavy hitters, including “Jambi,” an extended version of “Schism,” and even “Parabol” and “Parabola.” They churned out all of Fear Inoculum‘s staples: “Invincible,” “Descending,” and even “Chocolate Chip Trip.”Pneuma” had the freshest visual makeover which highlighted the genius of Tool’s full sensory experience. A giant septagram shone amongst the beautifully psychedelic visuals, and the lasers and lights captivated eyes. By the end of “Pneuma,” it was clear; Tool had tapped into a magical power that allowed the creation of music with unbelievable mathematical precision.

They finished their main set with “46 and 2“, then threw a digital clock up with a 12-minute countdown subtly commanding control of their audience. With the countdown complete, Danny Carey performed his solo, the frequency bending, drum-tastic “Chocolate Chip Trip,” so precisely that I think he may not be human! His hands moved faster than I have ever seen a drummer move. At one point a photo of him and Neil Peart projected on the screen, paying tribute to one of Carey’s inspiration and influences who the world had just discovered passed away earlier in the day.

After Carey’s insane solo, Maynard took to the mic, stating everyone may now take out their phones if they wished to record or take photos.  Up until that point, the majority of the audience had not pulled out their phone, per request of the band. A concert without a bunch of phones in your face is so refreshing! I think more artist’s should follow in Tool’s footsteps and adopt this rule.

The musical talent and cohesiveness that Tool emanate is far beyond any other band that I have seen. This was my third time seeing them, but I realized after talking to a couple people that three times is not even close to a seasoned Tool fan. Try 17 times! After this third time, I understand why people continue to want to see them — dare I say need to see them? All I know is that I walked away feeling different after this third time. Having the privilege to see Tool perform live is an experience unlike any other, and I highly recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance. You will then know what it means to spiral out. Check out their upcoming show dates for the rest of January and their set list from the January 10th show.

January 14 – Sacramento, CA
January 15 – Fresno, CA
January 17  – Las Vegas, NV
January 18 – Glendale, AZ
January 21 – Austin, TX
January 22 – Dallas, TX
January 28 – Atlanta, GA
January 29 – Nashville, TN
January 31 – Memphis, TN

Friday, January 10th Setlist

Fear Inoculum
Forty-Six & Two
Chocolate Chip Trip

Photos by: Josh Claros
Review by: Melissa Rubbo