One of the most revered bands in rock and heavy metal, Tool, returned in 2019 after a 13 year break from recording music with their critically acclaimed album titled Fear Inoculum. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart and was met with critical acclaim, even earning the band a Best Metal Performance win at this years Grammy’s.
Even with all the praise and much-deserved spotlight, front man Maynard James-Keenan has insisted on keeping a low profile and maintaining a strict limit on media exposure, a known rule even for his fans at Tool shows. During their stop at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, the venue made an announcement the day of the show that there was a NO PHOTO/VIDEO policy for the night, a difficult task for any concert goer in today’s technology run society.
Even with the hurdles and need to constraint oneself from documenting such a beautifully crafted show, Keenan’s commitment to keeping a limit on media exposure is one that should be admired. As a part of a band as big as Tool, who manages their own record label as well as releases their music through one of the biggest music record labels, RCA, the ability to make your own decisions becomes slimmer. Maintaining that autonomy even under major record labels gives musicians a positive role model to follow when trying to reclaim their voice under larger powers.
Tool played at The Frank Erwin Center on January 21st, 2020, located just a few blocks away from The University of Texas at Austin. Supporting Tool as the opening act was the one man Industrial act Author & Punisher. If fans thought Tool’s show was going to blow their ears out, they were not prepared for what Author & Punisher had in store. Author & Punisher is the stage name of Tristan Shone, a mechanical engineer from San Diego who created his entire stage setup composed of raw materials and open circuit circuitry. The heaviness of his music is not only heard but also felt, as the ground literally shook every time he slammed the metal weight to make percussive effects. Author & Punisher’s latest album titled Beastland was released in 2018 via Relapse Records.
Tool took the stage shortly after to a full venue at around 9pm. Tool’s extravagant on stage setup and overall show is one that needs to be seen in person. Words simply do not do it justice. From the beginning of the show, the lighting and videos on the large screen that hangs behind the band took the audience’s breath away. While Keenan’s introverted stage persona may be difficult for photographers, fans know this to be a trademark of Tool’s live shows. Keenan spends much of the time standing on an elevated floor towards the back, behind guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor, and next to drummer Danny Carrey. The strobe lights glare in front of the band and outward into the crowd, forcing the audience members to focus on the videos along with the light show instead of the band. The no photo/no video policy further forces the audience members to be immersed in the moment and become one with each other.
The visuals and lighting are of such high quality that it feels like it is a show on its own. However, having Tool play along to the synchronized videos was an overwhelmingly satisfying sight.
The band ended their set and walked off stage, when a timer appeared on the screen counting down 12 minutes, indicating an encore would soon start. Carrey took the stage for a long drum solo, and the band finished the night with their biggest song, “Stinkfist.” Though before the song began, Keenan told the audience they could “take out their stupid little toys and play with them” for the last song, to which the audience obliged. For the one song Tool allowed the audience to record, we were all thankful it was “Stinkfist.”
Tool’s Fear Inoculum is available for purchase here and can also be listened to in its entirety via Spotify.
AUTHOR & PUNISHER