Last night would be my first time seeing a band live for a 3rd time, and fittingly it would be the band that began it all for me back in 2002 at the very same venue, TOOL. Time's have changed since then, but it's still a Tool show, and here's my little write-up on the evening of September 3rd, 2006:
Me and Fallen Shadow (Dan) left for the BART station in Millbrae at 4 PM to take the train across the bay into Oakland (whoever came up with the brilliant idea to close the Bay Bride on Labor Day weekend, thanks a bunch). We arrived at the Oakland Arena around 5:30, and downed a couple sandwiches before heading to wait in front of the doors, which (according to me) were supposed to open at 6. So, we waited. And waited. Freezing our asses off, they finally open the doors at 7 PM, and wouldn't ya know it, we were in the wrong entrance. FUCK. So we race down to the lower entrance where the general admission people get in, and have to wait in line there. Great start to the night
Once inside I quickly hit the merch stand and picked up an Isis shirt, then raced down to the front to find Dan, who was holding a spot for me. We didn't get rail, but we were about the 2nd/3rd row of people deep, so very very close, and on the left side of the stage (Adam's side). Waiting for roughly 45 mins for Isis to start, I got a good look around at the people I'd be spending the evening with. I've come to conclusion that Tool fans, in general,
are some of the worst fans in the world. Everybody is either only in love with Maynard (more on that later), or is just waiting to hear Stinkfist, Sober, Schism, etc. When you see guys in baggy Ecko jeans and sideways baseball caps, you know there's a problem. The crowd is very diverse, and this comes as a testament to Tool's appeal, but I couldn't help but noticing that there really shouldn't be a difference between the popularity of a band like Isis and a band like Tool. I tie Maynard's dislike for being idolized by "millions of dumbfounded dipshits" to his anti-social, sarcastic, distant, and cold general disposition that he is portrayed as having. These guys didn't want to be stars, they are are a progressive rock band. I can't put my finger on why they became popular, cuz even the most anti-Tool people have to concede the fact that they don't write catchy songs and for the most part are highly unaccessible, especially in relation to a widespread audience/mainstream media. Perhaps there's a deeper message to be found in that, but it's hard to put my finger on. Irony? Jesus Christ was (as is still being) misunderstood and misinterpreted by millions of people as well......I dunno. I just can't get over the idea that Tool are really a band that, by all means, should have a rabid cult audience and play in small 1000 seat venues. In some ways its good that they got huge, because it has enabled them to have the money to put on bigger stage shows and also live a deservingly comfortable life, but at the same time when you have meatheads in the front row screaming out "This isn't Pink Floyd, play some rock and roll!" during one of their electronic spacey jams, the point is lost. Anyhow, I digress. Hopefully you see my general point, even though I know that I didn't get it across as well as I should have. Maybe this final word on the matter will clear things up: talking to a guy on the train ride home, a "die hard" who got into them with Undertow, told me that 'Wings' was about George Bush and that the lyrics "I should play God and shoot you myself" are in fact from the song 'Intolerance', when they are actually part of 'Jerkoff.' Case in point.
Back to the show (sorry for that rant), Isis took the stage non-chalantly at precisely 8 PM and proceeded to strap 'em on and tear 'em up. I was absolutely floored by their performance, the intensity level was much higher than I expected. They had a huge banner behind them as the 'visual', and also made use of some atmospheric and well-placed lighting changes which suited the mood of the music. Their entire show flowed beautifully. Here's what they played:
1.) So Did We
3.) Not In Rivers, But In Drops
4.) Holy Tears
Not sure of the fourth song, I think it may have been another new one (EDIT: Unknown song was "Holy Tears", and they actually didn't play "Backlit", it was in fact another new one titled "Not In Rivers, But In Drops"; thanks to sjsharksfan99 from Toolnavy). Sounded a lot heavier and with less of the progginess, really cool in any case. The band members each put out a lot of energy on stage, headbanging and moving with the flow of the music. One of the guys did double duty, playing lead on the guitar as well as taking care of the electronics and sampling on his computer thing. Not many people obviously knew the band, and I was gonna sing with 'So Did We' since I knew the words but decided not to make a fool of myself being the only one in the whole arena singing hehe. Everyone clapped and cheered for them though, and at the end Aaron Turner (singer/guitarist) thanked the crowd and Tool. The drummer was insane as well, when he started the double bass part on 'Dulcinea' who could just feel it pulsating bigtime through your body, deep and powerful as hell. The mix was superb too, you could even understand the singing when it was done cleanly (the dude has an awesome voice btw). They played a nice compact 30 minute set, and I cannot wait to see them in a headlining slot someday. They completely stunned and blew me away. I still have 'So Did We' and 'Dulcinea' stuck in my head all morning long. Goosebumps worthy shit.
Slowly you could feel the crowd pushing forward even before Tool had taken the stage. There were like 5 people around us lighting up as well, so the concert scent was in full effect, as I expected. Security was really really tight though in every manner, and they even came into the crowd a few times to make people put them out. Finally, the lights dimmed again, and the band just wandered on stage to a deafening roar. Maynard: "Where were we?" And they just launch straight ahead into their classic 'Stinkfist'. The crowd surge was unlike one I'd ever experienced, and certainly didn't expect at a Tool show. We must have moved a radius of 20 feet by the end of the show, and that's with trying to keep our spot haha. The swaying side to side and people putting their hands all over you didn't bother me as much as the blatant elbows to the rib and pushing from behind. I swear that I was ready to kill some of those assholes. Are you here to watch Tool or hump other guys? I loved this quote from Maynard also right after they finished 'Stinkfist', directed at those of us on the floor: "You guys looks like your enjoying yourself over there" (floor, center). "But what's happening over here," (referring to crowd in front of Adam, where we were). "You got a rugby match going on, football game?" And then wryly he says: "Maybe the guys just like rubbing up on each other." Thanks a lot assholes. Luckily since I'm tall I could deal with the crowd and enjoy the show simultaneously, but I feel bad for the smaller people. Oh, another bit about 'Stinkfist': they played a different version than on the album, with the part right before "I'll, keep, digging..." changed to this cool little jam, and it was enjoyable to see all the dumbfucks singing to that line when Tool was doing something totally differently. I loved Maynard's little smirk at that part. Fuck Tool fans.
Anyways, after that the heat continued to rise and Maynard kicked it into 'The Pot'. Fuck, it was seriously over 100 degrees there on the floor, I was dying of thirst, but the song still kicked ass. The breakdown part live is what it's all about baby. I sang most of the words to this one, but didn't sing to all the songs cuz I needed to save my breath pretty much. Watching Adam play was really cool too, being directly in front of him. I liked seeing his fingers move and how he actually does those parts, even though he doesn't move a whole lot or show a lot of emotion. Justin was headbanging a lot and getting really into it on the other side, and Maynard's little dances were a definite highlight. I can't even explain them, because they were too hilarious and awkward. A trademark of his though I suppose
He was way more active at this show than the one I saw in May though, which was nice, though he talked less this time.
The set continued with 'Forty-six & 2', not a standout performance but Danny's solo on that song is always awesome to behold. Then came the highlight of the night for me: 'Jambi'. This song is a fucking beast, plain and simple. Me and Dan sang all the words to this one, with minimal crowd pushing thankfully since I guess this song doesn't click with all the Neanderthals =) Maynard was a strain to hear all night, as being up close you get the rhythm section heavy, but you could hear him great on this song. The visuals in the background were perfect, just an all-around fantastic song. 'Schism', both times I'd seen it done live previously, had literally bored me a bit, but this time they did the extended version where in the middle section Adam does the riff in double-time (think the rhythm of Dio's 'Stand Up & Shout' only with the notes from the middle of 'Schism') and they just rock it for a few measures before settling it back down. It was truly wondrous and a great touch to the song, made me enjoy it a lot more. Without doing ‘Lost Keys’ as the intro, Adam ripped straight into ‘Rosetta Stoned’, with the rest of the band following suit. The visuals they had for this song were fabulous, though not having the massive screens ala Lateralus tour made them tougher to see and fully appreciated. In May it was a lot easier to discern Maynard during the megaphone parts, but last night it was completely garbled. Nonetheless, the song went down very well, and as a band they had their timing down better than last time. Maynard also busted some of his freakiest moves of the night, even singing the last part while walking around in a circle and progressively going slower and slower. He nailed the scream as well, though it was shorter than on the album and also a little less powerful than last time, but that can be understood since he’s been touring for a few months now.
After that Tool gave us the lone “surprise” of the night , if you can call it that, in the form of ‘Right In Two’. The last five shows they’ve done have all had ‘Opiate’ instead, but last night they gave us one of the least played songs on this recent tour, and although it’s also my least favorite on the new album it was much better live. Main reason: it gave me a friggin’ break from all the bullshit going on down front, well at least for the first half of the song
Watching Danny do the tabla solo was mesmerizing, and the disturbing visuals on the screens were memorable too. Finally, after doing a sweet 3 minute jam in the vein of ‘Merkaba’, the distortion feedback swelled to deafening levels and they kicked into arguably their most famous song, ‘Sober’. This song was probably the most intense of the night in terms of crowd action, and also the least enjoyable. Crowd surfers every two seconds (getting kicked in the head repeatedly isn’t a lot of fun guys) and this one annoy as hell chick behind who thought she was at a rave or something. I was honestly going to give her and elbow straight to the face but her boyfriend/bodyguard man-beast would have probably eaten me alive, so I just shoved me way a little closer to let someone else have the pleasure of enjoying her spastic “dancing”. The last song of the main set was of course ‘Lateralus’, and even though this was certainly the weakest version I’ve heard yet, the song is so amazing that t doesn’t even matter. They also brought out a big Christmas light type of thing resembling the “Net Of Being” painting behind the stage, and had some sickass green lasers going as well. Danny’s gong hit was, once again, absolutely massive. Great way to close out the main set.
The band just kinda hung out on stage, sipping icy cold waters and Gatorade (grrr) while soaking in the deafening roar of the crowd. Looking back and seeing the sea of lighters was really remarkable, and Justin actually held up a lighter himself in appreciation. After roughly 5 minutes, the band returned to their spots and almost gave me a heartattack. I swore that they were gonna finally break out ‘Wings For Marie/10,000 Days’, and here’s why: Justin recently did an interview with the San Jose “Mercury News” in which he revealed that they would be adding this song to the set shortly and it would become a major part of the show. Considering the interview was published in a Bay Area newspaper, the band historically loves playing Oakland, and it seemed long overdue, I was just stoked when the little electronic thing they started with after the encore sounded shockingly like the beginning to ‘Wings’. I held my breath in anticipation, but then my heart sank a little when Adam started with the intro riff to ‘Vicarious’. Oh well, maybe next time. ‘Vicarious’ was alright I suppose, but I was too upset about not getting to hear ‘Wings’ that I mostly just stood and watched. Finally the show came to a close with ‘Aenema’, and Maynard’s token “Peace the fuck out”. The band threw some shit into the audience, and I almost caught a water bottle (OMG I touched Maynard’s water bottle z0mG!1!1!!). While walking off Maynard also pointed at his wrist as in signaling the time and then pointed at himself and then made a motion that one could interpret as “Polishing the bishop”
Here’s the setlist for the show:
Forty-six & 2 (w/ intro)
Right in Two (w/ Intension intro)
Sober (w/ Merkaba intro)
Lateralus (w/ intro)
Vicarious (w/ intro)
This show leaves me with many mixed feelings. If I had not known beforehand that the setlist was just gonna be practically the same as back in May I would have been extremely upset, but I knew what to expect so I tried to make the best of it. Still, advertising a tour as a warmup tour, but then on the full tour playing the same shit is pretty odd and just plain wrong. Clearly, we have to accept that this is a different Tool. This is not the Tool who play songs almost at random switching it up every night, this is not the Tool who have people hanging freely suspended from 20 feet in the air acting out the characters in their videos, this is not the Tool with gargantuan screens shows creative and thought-provoking images accompanying each song, this is not the Tool whose lead singer dresses up like a hooker, a Reverend, a businessman, who paints himself multiple colors and sings from behind a curtain the whole show. This is a stripped-down Tool, an accessible Tool. I don’t see them any longer trying to reach anybody with any messages, they no longer have anything to prove, they are getting up there in age, and have nothing to vent or be mad about any longer. We can’t judge it good or bad, just accept that it is different. I wouldn’t call it evolving, because evolution implies becoming something of greater complexity. This is almost back to the basics. On the plus side, they seem more relaxed and free on stage to me, Danny and Justin always smiling, and Maynard being his usual sarcastic cynical self, and Adam being, well, Adam
One thing that I do have to say is that I will not be at their next show unless they drastically change the setlist and start throwing in some surprises. I can deal with a stripped down, not awe-inspiring stage show, but if I have to hear ‘Sober’ again I think I might have a fit. Start playing some ‘Third Eye, ‘Pushit’, ‘The Grudge’, ‘Undertow’, etc and you can bet your ass I will do my best to be there. I think this show will go down for me more importantly as being my first real taste of Isis rather than my 3rd of Tool. Still a wonderful and memorable night, and as always....”SPIRAL OUT! KEEP, GOING!”