INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Organic lifeforms adorned a gigantic screen as Maynard James Keenan sang songs of how mankind collectively needs to grow up.
Adaptation and change: themes in the music of Tool that were proven again on Saturday night to be evergreen.
On a chilly, bustling night in downtown Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse was packed to the gills as fans came to see their favorite band on tour with a new album for the first time in 13 years.
Seasoned veterans were seated alongside attendees seeing Tool for the first time and the enthusiasm was contagious.
Killing Joke warmed up the crowd with their signature post-punk thunder of noise and tribal beats, with cuts including the 2003 anti-war anthems “Total Invasion” and “Seeing Red,” and old-school tracks like “Complications” and “The Wait.”
To promote respect amongst concert-goers and continue the air of mystery surrounding the group, signs of ‘no cameras, strictly no video recording’ lined the arena while multiple announcements were made over the loudspeakers.
After years of anticipation building inside Hoosier fans, Tool took the stage and opened the set with the title track of the long-awaited Fear Inoculum. The new album became the centerpiece of the night, with the band playing a total of five songs from the record.
The show wasn’t without old favorites, however. “Fear Inoculum” was followed by “Ænema,” the namesake track from the smash album, followed immediately by the lighter “Parabol” and its heavyweight counterpart “Parabola” from 2001’s Lateralus.
As the 13-song, two-hour performance spiraled on, fans witnessed Tool change before their ears and eyes, including an alternative version of “Schism,” the first single and video from Lateralus.
Their unique, heavy sound solidified decades ago, but the complexity and length of their songs has since evolved, which has now become a more psychedelic-than-metal experience.
The once L.A. angst-metal troupe is now a global touring powerhouse with a cult-like following that sells out arenas wherever they land.
Maynard James Keenan, the band’s costumed vocalist stayed shrouded in shadows on platforms at the back of the stage, while drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and bassist Justin Chancellor executed the complex material with masterful precision.
Carey, Jones, and Chancellor essentially perform as a power trio and are the backbone, nervous system and blood pumping through the Tool machine.
On stage, this tight unit performed sludge-metal dirges ranging from the cold and mathematical to the warm and organic, including “Vicarious” from 10,000 Days and “Chocolate Chip Trip” from Fear Inoculum.
A video screen backdrop reaching to the top of the arena’s second balcony displayed mutating creatures and hallucinatory waves of water and flame, with anatomy of organisms from our world and Tool’s created universe.
Familiar imagery from previous video and album art was present but re-worked into new creations by Adam Jones in collaboration with Alex Grey, Tool’s resident visual artist.
The maniacal crowd reached fever pitch as “Forty Six & 2” punctuated the first set before a brief intermission. The 1996 song speaks of the proverbial shedding of the skin in order for the body and spirit to grow.
On this Saturday night, Tool proved to Indianapolis that they’re still made of the same stuff, but life doesn’t have to stay the same.
Although the sound was that of a more mature band, Keenan let the kids have their fun and announced video recording would be allowed for the last song, an extended version of fan-favorite “Stinkfist.”
TOOL performs with Killing Joke November 2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse: