Tool live at Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, 2017

Tool is a remarkable band. They burst onto the music scene in the early 1990’s when grunge rock was soaring and hard rock bands filled the airwaves. Many were introduced to Tool through MTV, when they saw the music video for “Sober” for the first time. The video was unlike any other, featuring a dark, disturbing claymation character that slogged through a pretend land of doom and despair. You couldn’t help but to be sucked into the world the video created and while watching, you almost forgot that you were listening to music that was almost as unusual as the imagery you were viewing. Tool was unlike any other band that was out at that time, but they were different in a unique, yet wonderful way.
Tool logo

Tool has existed for over 25 years and in that time span, they’ve done their share of touring, however, they’ve only released four studio albums. Such a small repertoire of music in a 25 year time span would be the death knell for most bands, but Tool isn’t like most. The music they’ve produced is superbly unique and continues to remain relevant to this day. Better to release four great albums, rather than eight with half being mediocre.
Tool’s last album release was in 2007. The band has toured sporadically since that time and Maynard James Keenan has kept in the public eye with his winery, Caduceus Cellars, his autobiography, “A Perfect Union of Contrary Things”, and tours with his two other bands, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. Regardless, there aren’t many rock bands that can sell out midsize arenas in support of new music, let alone no new music in a decade. But as mentioned, Tool is a remarkable band.
On May 25th, 2017, they visited the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The 10,000+ seat venue was sold-out weeks before the show. Arriving at the venue two and half hours before showtime, I expected a mostly empty parking lot, but instead, cars were lined up at the entrance. Fans could be seen heading to the doors early to be first in line to buy merchandise. Concert goers were going back and forth from the arena to their cars to safely stow away posters, pictures, shirts and other items that were offered for sale.
The Once And Future Band opened the show and in listening to the progressive rock band, you could hear influences from Yes and Steely Dan, but don’t think they copy their influences. With jazzy undertones and strange time signatures, they produced a sound that was all their own. They were an entertaining group to watch and I enjoyed their performance. If you’re a prog rock fan, I recommend you look them up online and give them a listen.
After a 30 minute break, the house lights darkened, the crowd roared and the members of Tool took their places. Justin Chancellor waved to the crowd and stood at the far right corner of the stage. Adam Jones took the far left, while Danny Carey stepped behind his large, yet incredibly awesome drum kit. He momentarily stood, dressed in his Kansas basketball jersey, and took in crowd. Once seated, the band opened with “The Grunge”. As the first notes were played, Keenan, dressed in his swat/riot uniform, stepped onto the stage and took his usual spot to the left of Carey’s drum kit.
When they began their second song, “Parabol/Parabola,” the huge video display behind them came to life and began showing sequences of the bizarre beings and scenes that go so incredibly well with their music. As the evening chugged along, the stage setup remained the same with great lighting on Chancellor, Jones and Carey, while Keenan remained a solitary silhouette against the video screen. Their timing, which is absolutely essential in their music, was impeccable and Maynard’s vocals were as strong as they were 10 years ago during their “10,000 Days Tour”. Maynard’s sense of humor was present during the evening, telling the crowd “Hershey, huh”, “some jokes just write themselves”. Later he added, “I’m trying to come up with a joke about the Hershey Highway”. He also commented about having the sense of humor of a 12 year old, drawing laughs from fans.
To the crowds delight, the band played gem after gem including “Schism”, “Opiate”, “Aenima”, “Descending”, “Jambi”, “46 + 2” and an incredible rendition of “Third Eye”. An unfortunate glitch arose during Jones’ talk box guitar solo in “Jambi”. When he began, there was no audio coming from the amp. He quickly motioned to his sound engineer and the issue was corrected in less than a minute. Once the guitar became audible, the crowd cheered in response. Once Jones was sure the problem was fixed he nodded to Carey, who was banging the drums the entire time. When he got the signal from Jones, he hit a short drumroll as if to reset himself. With that, Carey, Chancellor and Jones were back in sync and they finished the song. It was impressive, to say to the least, that they were able to correct a technical issue mid-song and not miss a beat.
After “Third Eye”, the band left the stage and a countdown timer was displayed on the video screen, along with the word “intermission”. When the timer hit zero, Carey returned, stepped behind his kit and played a nice drum solo. As his drum beats wound down, Jones and Chancellor appeared and the band played “Eulogy” for the first time in years (the prior evening in Fairfax, they played “Vicarious”). Next came “Sweat,” and then the final tune of the evening, “Stinkfist”.
As they played “Stinkfist”, I moved to the back of the arena for a change in perspective and I was blown away by the view. The video screen seemed much larger head on, than the sideview that I had for most of the show. The screen seemed to consume the band members as it dwarfed them by its large size, but their sound was equally as powerful. Keenan, his voice always so full of hope and despair, was as massive as imagery behind him. Couple that with the thunderous and rhythmic bass lines by Chancellor, the growl of Jones’ Gibson Les Paul and the power of Carey’s drumming and fans had a sensational visual and auditory experience that can only be produced by Tool.
If Tool is visiting a town near you, I highly recommend that you purchase a ticket and attend the show. You may have a long wait until they visit again.