BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Monday, February 6
Better than: Many bands who waste more stage time on useless chatter than actual music.
About 20 minutes -- or three songs -- into last night's headlining Tool show at BankAtlantic Center, frontman Maynard James Keenan finally spoke. "Some of the songs we're playing tonight were written back when most of you were sperm," he said.
This wasn't exactly true. Yes, the set list, consisting of only 11 long,
multipart songs total, came almost entirely from 2001 and before, with
the most songs selected from the 1996 album AEnima. But most of the
crowd, from mid-20s on up, were old enough to remember them from the
first time around.
For the scattered under-21s, though, that hardly mattered. All in attendance were clearly longtime worshipers at the altar of Tool, and this was truly a performance for the devout. If fans are attracted to the band because it's not easy to digest, then this live performance demanded similar close attention.
The group relies on few of the tricks other arena-sized bands regularly pull out -- no cheesy crowd participation, no Jumbotron closeups for those in the nosebleeds, no fireworks, and only a couple of songs approaching anthems. Hell, Keenan, last night, wasn't even technically a "frontman." Instead, he spent the entire show near drummer Danny Carey, mostly shrouded in darkness and ceding the actual spotlights to magic-fingered guitarist Adam Jones. He even started out the classic "Stinkfist" practically hiding behind an amp stack.
Still, though the mood was not necessarily what one would describe as "fun," it definitely worked, with a vibe approaching that of a Keenan-led cleansing ritual for longtime initiates. Although set opener "Hooker With a Penis" was a relatively fast number, things quickly took a turn for the slower and decidedly proggier, though for the first half, one with few stage frills. Instead of distracting pyrotechnics and the like, Keenan and company here kept the show to selected animations on various background screens, allowing the music itself to create a psychedelic mood.
With long, almost jazz-like passages creating slow crescendoes, it hardly mattered if you couldn't see the players themselves. Instead, you could let the music wash over, waiting for subtle time changes and unexpected bass licks. Then, about halfway in, things roared even louder to life with "Forty Six & 2."
As Keenan -- whose voice is still in album-perfect shape -- broke into the chorus of "My shadow's shedding skin," the stage seemed to explode in light. The screen gave way to occult graphics, fractals, and possibly snowflakes? Here, the crowd seemed to cheer the visual shapeshifting as much as the music itself, which only got more intense, alongside the music, with follow-up "Lateralus." There were lasers, screens with swirlies, an animated illustrated man superimposed over more creatures hammering themselves together, spinning orbs... Even stone-cold sober, it was easy to feel otherwise.
The only complaint here: The entire evening's timing went off with an almost clinical efficiency. Doom-metal favorites Yob had performed and finished its opening set by just before 8 p.m., when most of us were still stuck in long, inefficient bag-search lines. (I would ditch the purse next time if it weren't for the whole note-taking thing.)
Tool itself played for barely over an hour and a half, finishing just before 10:20 p.m. with an "encore" of "AEnema." This really just flowed as part of the show, with the band exiting the stage for a break during another stretch of an instrumental laser-light show. With the group's wealth of material and fan enthusiasm, there certainly would have been room for another encore. Perhaps, though, that would have been too obvious too, and if anything, the show proved that this is a band about anything but the obvious.
Personal bias: Usually my personal subgenre taste in heavy music runs more toward the Yob-ier side of things, but it's all good.
The crowd: Mostly mid-20s and up, many with era-specific tattoos like the concentric rings on a redwood. (Oh, the late '90s and their inked fairies.)
Overheard in the Crowd: "Stop talking to me; I gotta Facebook all this!"
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Random detail: This is the second time I've seen the brand VPX foisting sports supplement-type drink samples upon the crowd outside of a BankAtlantic Center show. This review is brought to you in part by the incredibly pulse-racing power of Redline!
"Hooker With a Penis"
"Forty-Six & 2"