Tool Deliver a Show of Epic Proportions at L.A.’s Staples Center

Tool has proved to be one of the most enduring rock bands of our era, having released several multi-platinum records over the years, and recently ending a 13-year album hiatus with their fifth studio record, “Fear Inoculum.” In support of their latest LP, the music giants kicked off a 26-date tour on Oct. 13 at Sacramento’s Aftershock Festival. Following subsequent concerts in Denver and Salt Lake City, Tool performed the first of two L.A. shows at the Staples Center on Oct. 20. Their set began with “Fear Inoculum’s” title track, an epic, brooding eight-minute song, which doesn’t contain any vocals until two minutes in. Next came fan favorite “Ænema,” the title track off Tool’s second studio album about the vapidness of Los Angeles and wanting to escape.

Notorious for concealing himself during performances, frontman Maynard James Keenan spent much of the show on a raised block at the back of the stage donning a Puscifer leather jacket, plaid pants, and a mohawk, alongside drummer Danny Carey, while guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor remained in the foreground. Maynard’s verbal interaction with fans was limited, keeping the focus on the rich sound of epic proportions that permeated throughout the arena, while a no phone, no recording device policy helped make for a more connected experience. The crowd went particularly wild for Tool’s third number, “The Pot,” singing along to lyrics like, “Who are you to wave your finger? / You must have been out of your head / Eye hole deep in muddy waters / You practically raised the dead.” Other songs in the set included “Pneuma,” another favorite off of “Fear Inoculum,” and “Intolerance,” a classic Tool track off their debut album “Undertow.” 

While much of the concert was in the tradition of classic arena rock shows, in true Tool fashion the visuals were provocative, with laser lights and an LED screen featuring a variety of videos — fetuses, aliens, skeletons, emaciated figures, insects, water, and fire — in line with the band’s romanticizing of doom and destruction, yet obscure enough to leave the collage of images open to interpretation. One of the more striking videos was a 3-D hand of a creature that looped during “Schism.”

Tool also took up the trend of eschewing an encore, simply taking a 12-minute break towards the end of their set, with a countdown clock letting the fans know how long they had to run to the restroom and/or grab a drink. The three-song finale opened with Carey playing the gong before launching into an extended drum solo. Carey absolutely owned it, and the arena was mesmerized. The night came to a close with an extended version of one of the Tool’s biggest hits to date, “Stinkfest.” For this, Keenan lifted the ban on recording, to the delight of the fans who desired to document some part of this memorable night.

Tool performed Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 with opening act Killing Joke at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.