Tool made a triumphant return at Boston Calling (pics, review, videos, setlist)
The final day of Boston Calling was headlined by Tool, for whom it was the fourth date of an ongoing tour. It's something of a comeback tour for Tool. They've been vaguely talking about a new album for a while now and a new song has been popping up in setlists for the past couple years, but there's no hard proof that 2006's 10,000 Days is getting a followup anytime soon. For now, the "comeback" is more about hitting some major markets they haven't played in a while -- this was their first Boston show in years and this coming weekend's Governors Ball set will be their first NYC show in even longer (though they have played NJ more recently) -- and being able to take some advantage of the way their legend has grown over all these years.
At the recent Relix Live Music Conference in NYC, it was said that Governors Ball is taking a risk by booking Tool, since the kids have not only never seen them but also can't listen to Tool's music on Spotify. I don't know how different the NYC crowd will be than the Boston crowd, but if Boston Calling is anything to go by, GovBall doesn't need to worry. When I got to the festival Sunday morning, Tool shirts were everywhere. The merch booth had two sections: "Merchandise" and "Tool Merchandise." The line for the latter was insane already. By the time Tool took the stage that night, the crowd was packed in like sardines more than any set I'd seen all weekend.
It also wouldn't be crazy to be doubtful about Tool's draw since they were the only metal band besides Converge -- who were added after Boston Calling's initial announcement and played a killer set to a much smaller crowd at 3 PM -- on a very non-metal festival. Tool are not only metal, but they got unfairly lumped in with the maligned nu metal boom during their heyday. People who came to this fest to see the quote-unquote "cooler" bands may have just called it a day before Tool went on.
But Tool work so well on a festival like this because they are not Headbanger's Ball fodder. They are one of the most interesting, creative, and smart bands of '90s/'00s rock -- closer in spirit to Radiohead than to Slipknot. On stage, the band members weren't headbangers at all. The musicians stood nearly motionless, while Maynard James Keenan slithered at the back of the stage, decked out in a black, riot gear-like bodysuit. The riffs didn't crush, they travelled in hypnotizing movements. Equally hypnotizing were the screens behind the band, which showed psychedelic, hallucinatory visuals, body horror, religious imagery, and more. Tool had gorgeous sections of clean guitar, tribal drums, guitar feedback, extended jams, and more, in addition to the towering weight of crowdpleasers like "Ænema" and "Forty-Six & 2." Those songs (and others) offered moments of immediacy, but Tool's set required patience.
Being a Tool fan in general requires patience. They put out four albums in 13 years, and it's now been 11 years without a new one. As is often the case with bands like this, those 11 years have only done good things for Tool. The time away has given them a chance to shed those nu metal associations, and for all four of their rock-solid albums to stand on their own as uniquely different classics. They've also had more than enough time to road-test every song in their set and come out with a virtually flawless live show. If you had any doubts that Tool could be an exciting, successful festival headliner, the Boston Calling set should erase them.
Catch Tool at Governors Ball and check out the rest of their tour dates here. Their tour concludes with a big San Bernardino, CA show with Melvins, Primus, Fantomas (members of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Slayer, Melvins), Clutch, and The Crystal Method.
Here's Tool's setlist and some videos. Pictures are in the gallery above:
Forty-Six & 2
photos by Aaron Peipert