On Thursday, January 13th, 2022, Tool delivered a memorable and intimate performance at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, making up for their previously postponed date. Blonde Redhead set the pace and vibe. Opening the night with powerful, progressive, trance-type rhythms and melodies, the three-piece magnificently prepared fans for what was to come. While everyone was there for Tool, it was quickly obvious why Blonde Redhead was chosen as direct support and the fans warmly accepted them as part of the nights experience. Closing their set with their 2007 song “23” was an excellent choice, with a hypnotic rhythm that seemed beautifully eerie yet familiar. Tool fans really responded well to their music, stage presence, and reverence for the headliner.
During the short break, the crowd felt calm, though the anticipation was thick and obvious. Ready. Things were still, but the energy was brewing. Just before Tool took the stage, as the lights started to dim, a guy sitting next to me leaned over to say, “Hey man, it’s an honor to be sharing this experience with you,” and it was. After all, we were about to see Tool, and very little else carried any weight or mattered. He, like so many others there, was honored and grateful to be somewhere, anywhere, sharing an experience with others… let alone at a Tool concert.
They began the night with their newest album’s title track, ‘Fear Inoculum’ and persisted through a multiple-climatic and very well-chosen setlist. As one can expect from a live experience, the band was in a space, a universe, of their own. These musicians have incredible abilities. Not just in their seemingly interdimensional ability to write, but also in how they perform their work flawlessly. Known for both their visual expressions as well as their tendency to place the focus on the music and stunning visual effects rather than the band members, the performance offered a glimpse into what jamming and playing together is like. Often turning toward each other, and expressing the love for what they were doing together in that moment; moments every person in the arena was able to share.
Tool’s visuals are all-consuming, calming with reminders of aggression and angst. Like their music, they offer expressions of anger, frustration, and aggression, but with subtle reminders of comfort and control. A reminder to fans that it’s okay to be angry, upset, and frustrated. This is where choices that impact our paths are made; coupled with the subtle reminders of strength, calm, and control, the experience offers personal growth.
Right from the start, James Keenen Maynard (sporting his triple row liberty spike mohawk) started carving out his own personal space on risers placed on either side of the drums. He was able to walk back and forth from side-to side and performed most of the show taking turns on each side with each song. With his iconic rocking back and forth, stomping, and intense squat/crawl, he immediately commanded respect from everyone in the room without ever asking for it; simply by doing what he does best. Maynard is an amazing vocalist live. He offers a true glimpse into the emotion and connectivity to the music that he experiences and expresses while performing.
As the band continued through an extended version of ‘Opiate’ and ‘The Pot’, Danny Carey just seemed truly happy to be there, effortlessly performing tasks behind the kit you would think require two or three drummers, like someone from another or higher dimension. Placed in the center of the stage, he offered a lot of facial expressions while playing, but mostly reflections of bliss and genuine connectivity to the moment. It truly is a privilege to see, in person, what Carey’s capabilities produce, both in the presence he maintains as well as the emotion that his thunderous and progressive, yet elegant compositions invoke. His skills are commanding and hypnotic, like all members of Tool. I cannot say I’ve ever been witness to a more amazing drummer in person.
Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor both match the masterful levels of Maynard and Carey. Positioned toward the front, at either side of the stage, their bass and guitar melodies created streams of energy every single person was simply consumed by. Their presence and stature were epic, and the music and sounds they produce together create incredible waves of progressive builds and hard-hitting drops that resonate down to the core. Something for all to feel and experience. While Jones spent a lot of time playing like he loves what he does, Chancellor acted as the bridge between the fans and the band for most of the performance He constantly made direct eye contact with fans and used his body to express the emotions behind his rhythmic trance-like bass melodies. Inviting everyone to come along with him and the rest of the band on the journey of each song.
While the rest of the band seemed to come in and out of their own personal relationship with the songs (and understandably so; this is what Tool music does), Chancellor kept reaching out and pulling the fans into the experience with them. With no signs of what was about to occur, both the band and the fans were all about to experience something that would pull them even closer together for the night; a rare experience that will long not be forgotten.
Partway through their fourth song of the night, ‘Pushit’, the music completely cut out. All of the instruments just stopped producing any sound. While the lights and visual effects stayed on and continued, the band quickly started looking around at each other, and to the sides of the stage for any word or signs of what had just happened. Carey continued playing for a few moments, and the crowd roared with enthusiasm. I’ll add that in a moment where one might expect the fans to turn on you, or become disrespectful, the Boise crowd, instead, cheered and applauded, encouraging the band that we were with them, not against them. The band left the stage, one by one, except for Carey, who came out from behind the kit, put his arms up to the crowd in a shrug (letting us know they weren’t sure what happened) and sat down on one of Maynard’s risers to wait right alongside and with the fans. As moments pass, no disrespect is given, still. Fans roared in support and appreciation each time someone walked across the stage.
While the crew worked as quickly as possible to resolve the issue, the decision was made to open and pull back the transparent curtains that had, up to this point, been between the band and fans (a clever stage setup; a great way to have the projected imagery across the full stage, top to bottom, left to right while still being able to see the band). Curious what was happening, the entire arena remained respectful, still, and patient. It was 4-5 minutes before sounds finally started emerging from the instruments again.
As the instrumentalists took the stage once again, more sounds started coming through and it was becoming obvious the issue(s) had been resolved. In a single moment, Carey, Jones, and Chancellor synced up and just started jamming. Essentially, they needed to sound check again, but instead of a typical sound check, they just started jamming together. It felt very improvisational, and I have to say that when it comes to Tool, technical difficulties make for an amazing jam session. With the curtain pulled back, the entire crowd was now brought in closer for an intimate experience with these iconic rock gods. After a few moments, the instruments quieted. Maynard returned to the stage (emerged from the dark), climbed back into his space, approached his microphone, and simply asked, “Where were we?”
Without hesitation the band exploded right back into “Pushit”, picking up right where they had been forced to stop. The crowd thunderously exploded right along with them, cheering, applauding, whistling, stomping their feet, and jumping up and down. It was as if nothing had gone wrong. No one booing or screaming obscenities at the band or crew; nothing but genuine respect and gratitude. It was beautiful to see, and I was really proud of my fellow Idaho Tool fans. These are the moments you just hope your fellow attendees don’t become belligerent, become embarrassing for the rest of us, and just blow it for everyone. I don’t know if pulling the curtain back was already a planned part of the show, or if it was decided to be done because of technical issues. But it didn’t matter. Doing so changed the connectivity for everyone in the room; it turned the live show into a living, breathing experience. While the band invited the fans in, the fans welcomed the intimate gesture.
Watching it all unfold, then watching the band shift the energy in an attempt to jump right back into the show, all I could think to myself was, “Wow, thanks for letting us in.” Now, even more connected with the band’s members, the fans screamed and cheered on as the band delivered an amazing recovery, perhaps feeling like the fans deserved to have things brought up a level, just digging in and offering even more intensity and passion.
Having successfully recovered and risen from the unexpected silence, the band effortlessly reminded fans that they were in there for a reason; that they had a plan. They know exactly what they are doing, not just instrumentally, but in demeanor, stage presence, and in the message being delivered. A lot of bands don’t mind not being able to perform their songs perfectly; a lot of bands are okay with not being able to replicate on stage something that is on the album. Not Tool. They are known for being perfectionists. Still, the band members were also gracious and respectful. There were no negative comments toward the crew or arena staff. They were just eager to get back into their experience and in doing so, they delivered magnificently.
The band let us in, and we welcomed the experience. They continued their powerful setlist, offering fan favorites such as ‘Pneuma’, ‘The Grudge’, ‘Right in Two’, ‘Descending’, and ‘Hooker with a Penis’, before an intermission. The visual effects stopped, and a twelve-minute timer was displayed, offering fans ample time and opportunity to reset, readjust, and prepare for what we all knew would be an amazing encore. Carey returned to the stage first, inviting fans in for an up-close and personal glimpse into ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’. Chancellor joined Carey on stage and seamlessly flowed into and performed ‘Eon Blue Apocalypse’ before being accompanied by Jones and Maynard both and transitioning right into ‘The Patient.’ In full force, the last song of the night was ‘Invincible,’ closing the night as they had opened it, with tracks from their newest album, ‘Fear Inoculum.’
The show, the experience, was captivating, uplifting, powerful, hypnotic, articulate, and chaotic, yet calming and reassuring. Both raw and ugly but also beautiful and with a sense of order within the chaos. It’s truly mesmerizing to see these four individuals demonstrate the ability to rip open a portal and transport that which is from the other side right into our world and share it with everyone. The wisdom, experience, and messages deriving from these four together, and their unparalleled ability to spark transformation through music. Throughout the show, Maynard offered a few interactions with fans between songs. At one point asking if anyone was interested in “purchasing a 6-feet in diameter millennium falcon.”
Tool offered an amazing experience. They provide a fantastic presentation that not only offers incredible music and a valuable message, but stunning visual effects in accompaniment and as a vehicle to help deliver the message. Because the message is important, but so is how that message is delivered. The technical difficulties offered a valuable and unique experience that stands out as a triumph over the restrictions and everyday burnout we all live and feel on a daily basis in this new, COVID-infested world. The technical difficulties themselves, only brought the fans and the band closer together, rather than serving as an opportunity to divide or an outlet for anger or hate. It was a magical night.
These four musicians truly are masters of their art and gave Idaho a phenomenal performance. This show was the break and pause everyone in attendance needed; an opportunity to feel those primal urges and “go there” without the hate or destruction; without the negativity; a break from life’s chaos. In the midst of this pandemic, for a few brief hours, things felt right; a sense as though everything is going to be okay. Primal and raw, with the comfort of knowing it’s all just a catalyst for growth, connectivity, and hope moving forward. “If we tune in and pay attention”. It was more than just a show, it was a lantern in the dark. It led to some beautiful places that remind us that we all are on a journey, not stuck in some unwelcome, dark state of permanence. From being broken, we build strength, From being lost, we find independence, from our chaos and anger comes transformation.
Tool’s message (and performance) reminds us that it’s okay to struggle and persist through discomfort, because it’s all a lesson anyway. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Tool live, it’s time to start making it a priority. Thank you, Tool. Stay you.
Opiate (extended version)
Pushit (album version) (Technical Difficulties)
Right in Two
Hooker with a Penis
INTERMISSION (12 minutes)
Chocolate Chip Trip
Eon Blue Apocalypse