Tool Hammersmith Apollo, London, 14/06/2006

Fri 16th June 2006

Rob Himself

Phenomenal. Tool's live shows are by and large, nothing less than that. Whilst I can't speak with the same degree of authority as an older fan who may have seen them on previous tours in the Nineties, having seen them on the Lateralus tour in 2002, I can say that in the last four years, their intensity hasn't waned in the slightest. From start to finish, this two hour plus set was an astonishing display of visual and musical delight. The songs (presumably a different selection than the previous night's Apollo show) spanned all four studio albums, but focused mostly on their new record, '10,000 Days'.

After a considerable wait, with (thankfully) no support act, they open to rapturous applause with the familiar industrial stomp of 'Stinkfist'. Following in quick succession with a sure-fire future live favourite, 'The Pot' - the performance is as tight and as heavy as you would expect. One of the highlights for me came next, with a surprise rendition of 'Aenima''s 'Forty-Six And 2' which had the sell-out crowd pumping their fists to every crushing beat of Danny Carey's shimmering metallic kit.

Whilst the Apollo is a venue well-suited to Tool's sound - the cavernous space is designed to carry the sound whilst keeping it sounding punchy and clear - occasionally the dense, interwoven guitars of Adam Jones and local boy Justin Chancellor got lost in the mix, and it seemed at times (shock, horror!) that even the band themselves struggled to hear what they were doing, particularly in the more complicated timings.

The band barely pause for breath between aural pummellings, although singer Maynard James Keenan is uncharacteristically chatty, asking if there are 'any Irish here tonight?', repeating the question for any Belgians and bizarrely, Ukrainians present. Dressed surprisingly rockstar-like in jeans, aviator shades, studded belt and erm, stetson (with a short mohawk toupe underneath) - Maynard sways and swaggers his way round his own little stage, pausing occasionally to add to the maelstrom of prog-metal with his synthesiser.

Tool's long-awaited return to these shores is appreciated by the audience, who belt out (myself included) the words to every 'hit' - old classic 'Sober', 'Lateralus' and 'Schism'. The latter is extended with a double-time version of the mid-section which leaves us all in awe of Danny Carey's ever-impressive drumming. The customary projections (by Adam's wife Camella) are visually stunning and meticulously timed to the music, weaving snippets from the band's promo videos with psychedelic imagery.

Rather than disappearing and making us all chant and clap for an encore like most million-selling bands, Tool simply sit together in the middle of the stage to look out at the crowd and share a few jokes. Considering the band's usual approach to public appearances, this was a touching moment that showed that for all their ivory-tower lyrics and epic musical gestures, Tool are just four normal guys who treat these huge shows just like a jam in the studio.

Returning to their places, all four members contribute an extended, noise/synth jam before bowing out with an encore of 'Vicarious' (which I'd been waiting for all evening) and an appropriately apocalyptic 'Aenema', which sounds as relevant in 2006 as it did a decade ago. Saying that they'd be back in November (although it's not usual practice to take Tool at their word, they were pretty honest about everything relating to the new album) the band left several thousand people with their jaws dragging along the floor all the way to the Tube station. But we knew they would.


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