Tool is a band to be seen as much as heard.
Nearly 10 years have passed since the progressive metal band from Los Angeles has released an album, but fans’ rabid interest hasn’t waned. Wednesday night, a near sold-out crowd at the Sprint Center watched and heard Tool put on its typical audio/visual spectacle, a torrent of sights and sounds that lasted nearly two hours and kept the big crowd captivated throughout.
Tool is led by frontman Maynard James Keenan, who, dressed in what looked like a black stormtroopers uniform, spent the entire show lurking at the back of the stage, near drummer Danny Carey, shrouded in darkness and shadows and barely visible, his powerful voice seemingly disembodied.
Behind him, large digital video screens broadcast an array of images, much of it ghoulish and gothic artwork created by guitarist Adam Jones. All that was embellished by a light show that was stimulating without being distracting.
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Around Keenan, his trio of bandmates stood (or sat) nobly by, adding their own dynamic flourishes and touches to each composition, most of which navigate odd time signatures and chord progressions.
The set list included one new song, “Descending,” a hypnotic instrumental built on a wending bass line from Justin Chancellor. The rest of the show included some of the band’s best-known and most-loved songs, like “Parabol” and “Parabola,” from the revered “Lateralus” album, plus “Schism,” “Opiate” and the explosive “Ænema,” some of which were rearranged or extended versions of the originals. Through most of it, the crowd appeared transfixed by each element: the visuals, Keenan’s arresting voice and the keen musicianship that surrounded him.
After a propulsive rendition of “Forty-Six & 2,” which rides a typically hard, ambling bass line from Chancellor, the band took a 10-minute intermission and returned for an encore that started with a worthwhile solo/exhibition from Carey, a Kansas native who was sporting a Kansas Jayhawks basketball jersey. They followed that with two more favorites: “Sweat” and then the clamorous, headbanging “Stinkfist,” the lead track off “Ænema,” an album nearly 20 years old.
The paucity of new material hasn’t diminished Tool’s shows in the slightest. Wednesday’s show was its first in Kansas City since June 2010, and both the band and crowd seemed invigorated by the experience. More than just a band hauling out and polishing its best material, the show was reminder of how artful and entertaining a rock show can be, both visually and aurally.
Primus: Much of the big crowd was in place when Les Claypool and his mates started their set, which followed an opening set by 3Teeth, an industrial-rock band from Los Angeles. Primus delivered the usual goods: a lively set of tunes that showcase, sometimes to excess, Claypool’s extraordinary techniques and whimsical flair on the bass guitar. The set list included a few favorites, including “Southbound Pachyderm.
Tool: No Quarter; The Grudge; Parabol; Parabola; Schism; Opiate; Ænema; Descending; Jambi; Forty-Six & 2. Encore: drum solo; Sweat; Stinkfist.
Primus: Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers; Last Salmon Man; Too Many Puppies; Southbound Pachyderm; Mr. Krinkle; My Name Is Mud; Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.