I don't know about you, but the lowly infidels hidden away deep in the Bandwidth bunker have always been nonbelievers in the band Tool. Not because of Tool's silly pseudo-intellectual take on heavy metal and prog-rock but largely because of its legion of overzealous, fanatical followers. These people just never look terribly smart. In fact, when we see someone wearing a hat or a shirt emblazoned with TOOL in all caps, we feel the urge to nod and declare, "Why, yes, you are!"
And nothing seen or heard at the National Car Rental Center on October 9 is going to broaden Bandwidth's narrow little spectrum of opinions on this score. We find admiring the band's underdog status quite easy -- its new album, Lateralus, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart with practically no commercial airplay, and the massive arena was less than full that Tuesday -- but I just can't get into the band's faux seriousness. Maybe touring with King Crimson taught the quartet some musical discipline, because the sound was impeccable and the performances professional to a fault, but Tool's entire premise smacks of cold calculation and market research. When furor was called for, Tool measured out a maelstrom. When restraint was needed, Tool broke out the fake tablas. Singer Maynard James Keenan spent the evening contorting in the shadows before a video screen, a depraved, apprehensive apparition. Interesting? Kinda. Compelling? Not in the least.
Perhaps most disappointing was the promised eye-popping spectacle hyped in advance of this concert. In reality the visuals were laughably see-through. I mean, anyone old enough to have taken a couple hits of acid, watched Eraserhead three or four times, and listened to Pink Floyd could direct a Tool video. Projected on huge screens were all the familiar Toolian themes, which can be picked apart thusly:
Worms squirm. Amputees are cool. Want some Bacon with that, Francis?
But Tool's grossest offense is its blatant ripping off of visual artistes those guys admire but couldn't afford to dupe into complicity: All the band's early MTV videos, such as "Sober" and "Prison Sex," pilfer from the pioneering stop-motion animation work of the Brothers Quay. Young fans who think Tool's scary artistic leanings are the product of parthenogenesis may well want to spend a late night poring over H.R. Giger's Necronomicon or Joel-Peter Witkin's Gods of Earth and Heaven to see some genuinely convulsive beauty -- and realize how dumb Tool's lowest-common-denominator appropriation really is. Tool has successfully made heavy metal safe for 22-year-old community college art students, and that's it.
We've been to big shows since September 11, but never in Bandwidth's memory has security been tighter than at Tool's appearance at the monolithic National Car Rental Megaplexamus Giganticus Maximus. A prerecorded voice repeated over and over what items were and weren't permitted; as we waited in line for more than a half-hour to enter the airport, er, arena, we heard the message almost often enough to memorize it. We know for a fact that binoculars were not mentioned in the list of contraband and didn't give our pair a second thought, since they don't fall under the "cameras or audio-visual recording equipment" category. But when we finally reached the door, the 'scopes were deemed verboten. "They could be used as a weapon to hit someone," said concert security. Tempting, but we checked our swing and returned the offending item to the car.
Metal detectors and pat-downs were far more rigorous than ever before, resulting in extremely slow going outside the arena, and making us miss almost all of Fantomas, whose John Zorn-inspired cataclysms were far more frightening than anything Tool presented. The Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle)-led outfit deserved a better welcome from the young throng of fans, but without a backdrop of dismembered corpses, the poor kids had no reference point.
It could have been one of the coolest small shows of the summer, an underground appearance October 10 by goth-surf trio the Necrophiles at the Treasure Trove, a burnout bar on Fort Lauderdale beach. With a pirate map providing directions, Bandwidth was set for an evening of dark-tinged twang (and $2 domestics!), but the Necrophiles had to scrap that gig -- and at least the next month's worth -- because bassist Dr. John had been struck by a drunk driver October 4 and had gotten laid up but good.
Seems the good doctor had been broadsided by a van running a red light. At least that's what they tell him. "I was just driving," he says, "and the next thing I know, I'm waking up the next day in the hospital." Painfully Dr. John enumerates his list of broken personal items: leg, nose, clavicle, shoulder, several ribs. Please join Bandwidth in wishing Dr. John a full and speedy recovery, full of cards, flowers, taffy apples, and extra-strength Vicodin.
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