Tool kept it going and spiraled out at Toyota Arena

Tool brought their unique brand of rock and roll experimentation to the Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA on February 17th for a packed show.  Tool has always pushed the boundaries of art, music, and technology throughout their career, and this latest concert experience was the epitome of the band’s mysterious macabre aesthetic.  Giant LED screens loomed over the band on a huge multi-tiered stage playing stunning visuals, and the performance utilized a dazzling array of stage lights and lasers throughout.  The 11,000 seat Toyota Arena, located about 1.5 hours from San Diego up the I-15, was a great sized arena to catch this show, and featured better sound than most of the bigger indoor rooms in SD.

Tool are always very clear in the fan instructions for their shows, and a strict no camera/ no phone policy has been in place at their concerts for years.  There are signs, a verbal warning, and plenty of eager security guards to remind you to put your phone away.  Don’t let singer Maynard James Keenan catch you, or he might even call you out mid song.  The band apparently does not like the distraction from phones being held aloft with flashlights ablaze, preferring their fans to enjoy their shows in the moment.  This refreshing take on seeing a live concert devoid of the constant distraction in your hand is actually quite refreshing, especially given the intricacy of Tool’s music which commands its own attention to their heavy riffs, intricate odd time musicianship, and the powerful soulful roar of lead singer MJK.

At this show Maynard was unfortunately under the weather, telling the crowd at the start of the performance that he barely made it onstage.  Apart from a set change to the crowd favorite “Schism” from the more vocally intense Lateralus track “The Grudge” later in the set, his vocal performance seemed powerful and emotionally intense.  Guitarist Adam Jones moved freely around Tool’s expansive stage much more than usual as he strummed out riff after heavy riff on his signature Gibson guitars, seeming to enjoy jamming closely to his fellow musicians.  Bassist Justin Chancellor laid down some absolutely thunderous bass lines, while seemingly bending mid-body as he thrashed and swayed to the music.  And of course, the heart of Tool, drummer Danny Carey was in fine form as always, thunderously banging out his odd time signature tribal rhythms.  One of the most epic moments of the entire show was during Carey’s “Chocolate Chip Trip” drum solo mid set when a POV camera was turned on allowing the audience to experience Carey’s drumming first person, a simple but absolutely mind blowing visual addition to the concert.

Tool is one of those bands that you simply must experience live; their music is complicated, intense, emotional, and to see them create it from scratch together onstage is truly powerful.  After over thirty years they have created a passionate and devoted fan base that these days they cater to with VIP experiences, posters, coins, vinyl box sets, doodles, and all forms of merchandise imaginable.  Their rabid fans easily sell out each one of their concerts far in advance and follow them devotedly all over the country and the world.

The band is always known for doing things their own way, and for their own reasons, famously taking 13 years between their last two albums 10,000 Days in 2006 and Fear Inoculum in 2019.  Here’s hoping for this trend toward a more fan-friendly Tool, the one that lets us record the last song of the set on our cell phones, and the one that might put a new album out sometime sooner rather than later.  If you have never experienced this band live, do not waste an opportunity to see one of the top rock acts in the world bringing their absolute best to each and every performance.

Photos and Review by: Alex Matthews