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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Tool and Killing Joke at United Center

| November 5, 2019

Tool has always conducted itself as an unconventional anomaly. From their cryptic videos and ambiguous album art, their image has always thrived in the dark spaces that leave almost every aspect of their aesthetic open to interpretation. Who else but this band could wait 13  years between (arguably non-mainstream) records, knock Taylor Swift of the top of the charts and still immediately sell out arenas?!

And that is precisely what they’ve done on the ”Fear Inoculum” tour (sharing the moniker with their latest release), which landed at a sold-out United Center in Chicago this past weekend.

So it should come as no surprise that the Los Angeles quartet chose to take the stage behind a shroud of spaghetti-like cables that doubled as a projection screen. Known for their impeccable musicianship and stunning visual presentation, Tool made it immediately apparent that this would be an evening of unconventional practices.

Every few seats in the House That Jordan Built (United Center) was adorned with a sign indicating that anyone caught using a cell phone for documentation purposes would be politely dismissed for the evening. This was an event that demanded and deserved your complete attention and they wasted no time earning it.

The trinity of Adam Jones (guitar), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums) threw themselves lustfully into new material like ”Pnuema” and the new record’s title track, treating each like a Magnum Opus. The music slowly built its way toward a distant musical denouement, peaked, then slowly uncoiled toward another approaching aural tempest.

And lurking throughout it all was vocalist Maynard James Keenen. If the entirety of Tool’s existence is an enigma, then Keenen is the riddle inside. On this night he occupied the dark corners of the massive stage, a kind of anti-frontman, somehow remaining in the shadows of a seriously illuminated playground. With a spiked mohawk, Joker-inspired face paint and plaid pants, he was a caged animal rocking on his heels one moment then gleefully straddling a Marshall amp the next, legs swinging as though he just got released for recess.

It’s these weird, hard turns that have aided in Tool’s longevity. They afford the listener the opportunity to plug themselves into the music using a personal perspective, not that of the bands. Which gives the music a strange sense of timelessness. Older songs like ”Schism” ”Stinkfist” and ”The Pot” naturally blended seamlessly with newer material. But after all this time, it still feels hard fought. At one point Keenen sang ”the poetry that comes from the squaring off between.” Although it had more to do with interpersonal relationships, it could also serve as a succinct summary of the band’s tumultuous relationship with it’s music. Each artistic stride and success feels like a street brawl. On Sunday night, more often than not, it was their opponent who was left bloodied on the sidewalk.

Notting Hill’s Killing Joke opened the evening with their moody and menacing progressive punk.

-Review by Curt Baran, photos by Edward Spinelli


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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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