Sunday, June 18, 2017

Concert Review: Tool

Tool concert – Thursday, June 15, Rogers Arena, Vancouver

My apologies for the long delay between entries – I was away seeing progressive metal band Tool in Vancouver at Rogers Arena last Thursday night. So rather than wait for my next music review I give you bonus content in the form of a concert review (no accompanying album since Tool hasn’t released it yet).

The opening act was Crystal Method. I had spent a couple of days checking out their body of work on Youtube and had liked what I’d heard. They have a cool mix of industrial dance, techno and rock. I was excited to hear some it played, but instead they played the role of DJ, a few of their own tracks but a lot of other stuff as well, messed with ‘creatively’ like a club DJ would do. It felt like being at a nightclub, but with no room to dance.

Tool was solid, and the band was incredibly precise but it didn’t engage me that way I wanted. I think this was the result of a combination of things, including:
  • I had a few drinks before the show and by the time it started, I was a bit groggy. That’s on me, not Tool.
  • Large venues make it that much harder to connect with the band. This was my first huge show since Rush about ten years ago (which I enjoyed a lot more, but was also a lot closer). I think I just prefer smaller venues and if that means I’ll have to limit myself to less popular bands, I can live with that.
  • Tool are incredibly proficient on their instruments, which you need to be to play music this fast and intricate. For all that, they played a little too well, and I never felt any variation that made the performance feel ‘live’. Even the godlike Danny Carey’s drum solo felt more technical than inspirational.
The set list was solid and featured many of my favourites including “Schism” “Opiate” and “The Pot”. Although I was warned they wouldn’t play anything off my favourite album, “Undertow,” it was still disappointing when the warning proved true.

The crowd was well behaved and spanned multiple generations (I think we were the oldest), proving Tool has staying power even ten years after they released their last studio album. These large shows tend to attract a bunch of people who go just so they can say they did, but not this time. The crowd was both knowledgeable and appreciative, with very few posers. Overall it was a good energy, although there was a lot of smoke (tobacco and otherwise) that while it added to the ambience, was a bit thick at times.

Also, while I didn’t feel emotionally engaged (even after trying the show with ear plugs out for maximum aural assault) the sound was excellent for such a large venue, crisp and nicely layered. Kudos to the folks running the soundboard.

Visually, the band doesn’t do a lot – they just stand in one spot and play their instruments. There are disturbing videos playing behind them on a big screen, but that just made me feel like I was sitting at home watching a video, which wasn’t the experience I signed up for. On the plus side, there was a pretty killer laser light show.

Best of all, I took the trip (and saw the show) with great friends, and great friends make every experience better. While I wouldn’t see Tool live again, I look forward to seeing my friends at other events for years to come.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I concur with pretty much everything about this review. This is one of my all time favourite bands, and the previous 2 times that I've seen them I was absolutely wowed by the experience.

This time not so much. Technically, they were as strong as ever, but there was a chasm between the performers and the audience that I did not feel before.

Also, the tobacco smoke was a needless annoyance, that genuinely distracted me from the show.

The company was excellent, and we really need to have more days like that!