After Tool played its first two songs at Ball Arena on February 5 — "Fear Inoculum" and "Jambi" — frontman Maynard James Keenan emerged from the shadows to address the audience. "Just checking in," he said. "Denver?"
The crowd roared, but it wasn't loud enough for Keenan's liking. "Come on, that sounds like Colorado Springs," he joked. "Denver?"
The roars got louder and louder until Keenan was satisfied. "Ready to go on a journey?" he asked, before making sure to add: "Put your fucking phone in your pocket for the rest of the show. If you can't do that for two hours, you have a fucking problem!"
After the warning about Tool's strict no-phone ban, he simply said, "Let's take a little trip."
And what a trip it was.
Seeing Tool is like watching your favorite movie, but with some scenes changed. The band traditionally sticks to the same set list, with two to three different songs mixed in, so if you were at Tool's Blue Arena concert in October, you may have experienced a bit of deja vu last night. However, amid the standards, fans got a throwback with "Intolerance" in the first set and then "Flood" after the intermission, as well as "Schism" to close out the show.
As much as it is known for its prolific, heavy discography and technical prowess, though, the band has also gained a following for taking those songs to new heights live with high-quality, psychedelic visuals that utilize lasers and video. These elements don't just supplement the music, but are key to Tool's ethos of obscuring its members, making the concert fully about soaking up the moment.
That's what my neighbor at the show, Paul, said he loved most about Tool: "The music is at the forefront — Maynard is always in the back. That's what's always been cool about them."
He was there with his wife and mother-in-law, an absolutely fabulous woman in a Metallica shirt with shoulder cut-outs who was sure to greet passersby with a "Happy Tool!" Paul said he has seen Tool every year since 2003; the aspect that's changed the most is "Maynard. He didn't have the spiky hair back then; he was just a punk dude with long hair."
Paul, like most other Tool fans, was particularly drawn to Keenan's lyrics as well as the band's ability to build almost symphonic movements in heavy, prog-rock stylings. "Maynard's compelling lyrics coupled with the complexity of the music — that's what makes them the greatest rock band," he declared.
And it appeared that everyone at Ball Arena felt the same way. The air was electrified with excitement even before Tool took the stage. Opening act Elder helped to set the mood for the night, with a heavy set that saw doom-brushed descents into long, iron-coated jams that kept the audience captivated from beginning to end. And then Tool took the stage to deliver eleven mind-melting songs and a dose of tinnitus.
Check out photos from the show below: