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Concert Reviews:
Tool immerses Little Caesars Arena in artful prog-metal blend

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2019

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DETROIT -- Amidst the array of pre-recorded passages Tool looped into its show on Saturday night, Nov. 9, at Little Caesars Arena, one in mid-show repeated that "It's some kind of psychedelic experience."

You couldn't ask for a more succinct summary of a Tool concert.

Part metal, part prog and both musically and visually avant garde, the quartet is not for all -- but certainly enough to fill Little Caesars on Saturday. And though Tool has been through fairly recently (June of 2017) there was a different energy to this stop, owing to a new album, "Fear Inoculum," the group's first in 13 years. Its sprawling, 10-minute plus title track opened the show, in fact, and set the tone for sensory warping two-hours and 15 minutes, which paused only for a 12-minute intermission before the final half-hour of the night.

Following a blistering opening by heritage heavy rockers Killing Joke (whose guitarist, Geordie Walker, resided for a time in Royal Oak), Tool began the concert playing behind a sheer curtain, enveloped in projections on it as well as on a three-panel screen behind the stage. Mowhawked singer Maynard James Keenan, who was raised partly in Michigan, performed on two platforms in the back corners of the stage, coming down only once to "prank" guitarist Adam Jones by moving one of his Marshall amplifiers back to one of his stations. The often lengthy song constructs gave Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey (sporting a Blake Griffin Pistons' jersey) plenty of virtuosic sonic space to stretch out, with Keenan's vocals woven into the mix more like another instrument than atop the tightly delivered arrangements.

The visuals were as key as the instrumentation, too -- a series of macabre, sci-fi images of odd creatures and artful, amoeba-like shapes that added an extra tone of eerie lighting around the stage with lasers occasionally complementing the scheme. It was -- per usual for Tool -- and immersive experience, aided by harsh warnings about a "zero photo" policy that kept the crowd's cell phones away until Keenan told security to "stand down" let fans shoot away for the closing "Stinkfist."

Keenan tempted fate a bit early on by greeting Michigan as "behind Arizona (where he lives and runs one of his wineries), the second best state in the cultural U.S." But the Little Caesars crowd was fully on board throughout the night, reward not just with the new material -- including the Carey's gong solo "Chocolate Chip Trip" and ferocious live recreations of "Pneuma" and "Invincible" -- but also plenty of established favorites such as "Aenema," the "Parabol"/"Parabola" suite and an extended version of the signature "Schism."

The group also played "Merkeba" from its 2000 compilation "Salival" for the first time in 17 years, and Keenan introduced the late-set "Part of Me" by telling "anyone under 30" in the crowd that "you were not even sperm" when the Tool created it.

The wait for "Fear Inoculum" has made clear that one never knows when it will be Tool time again. But Saturday's show was worth any wait, and should be enough to sustain fans until the next time the group returns, on album or on stage.

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