BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Tool is one of the more interesting stories in rock.
The band hasn’t released a new album in a decade, singer Maynard James Keenan treats touring (and Tool “fanatics”) with disdain, but yet their concert at Duluth’s Infinite Energy Center sold out immediately, as did the other dates on this month-long tour.
To call the band’s fans loyal is beyond an understatement, especially those who coveted the elaborate Tool posters sold at the concert (Posters! How awesome is that?) and continuously thrashed heads and fists for nearly two hours Monday night.
The quartet of Keenan, Adam Jones (guitar), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums) battered eardrums as they edged from a slow-burn take on Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” to a guitar-shrieking “The Grudge.”
As is typical at Tool concerts, Keenan, clad in an Ant-Man-meets-Iron-Man suit, hovered at the back of the stage next to Carey’s drum riser, frequently crouching like an insect or pacing in the shadows.
While his vocals were often buried under chunks of guitar, Maynard, obviously, isn’t the focus here. (By the way, the band’s strict no photos/videos policy was mostly adhered to by respectful fans. Mostly.)
Tool, which played the same venue in 2012, presents one of the most visually stimulating light and video shows seen inside an arena. The screen behind the stage centered between two angled side screens provided the perfect massive palette to display Alex Grey’s stunning art featured on the band’s 2001 “Lateralus” album (during “Parabola”) and some creepy imagery during the now-ancient “Opiate.”
Sheets of aqua and green lights blanketed fans and red lasers jabbed at them as they sang along to the decidedly angry “Ænima,” shouting the “learn to swim” refrain over Carey’s locomotive drumming.
While all of the band members are formidable musicians, Carey was a monster ensconced in cymbals, a bracing, brawny drum wizard whether guiding Tool through their nibble of new material – the instrumental “Descending” — or the tricky time shifts in “Jambi.”
Prior to Tool’s arrival, Primus rattled the venue’s seats with Les Claypool’s roaring bass.
While the 30-plus-year-old trio is a headliner in its own right, the band’s hour-long set proved the ideal appetizer to Tool.
Buzzsaw guitar from Larry LaLonde and booming drums from Tim Alexander framed “Here Come the Bastards,” a typically Primus-ian combination of disjointed musical fragments that escalated into a frenzy of instrumentation.
Cheers erupted at the first heavy bass notes of “Frizzle Fry” and Claypool donned his pig mask for “Jilly’s On Smack,” which featured a fleet-fingered coda from LaLonde.
A highlight of their set was Alexander machine-gunning his double bass drum pedals during “My Name is Mud,” one of the admittedly odd band’s most tuneful songs.
Given the sonic combination of Tool, Primus and the first act of the night, industrial rockers 3Teeth, it’s a safe guess that a few thousand ears are still ringing this morning.