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Tool with Author and Punisher at the Moda Center, Portland on 03/11/2020

By BENJAMIN MAH // The visual components meshed perfectly with the songs, making for a pretty immersive experience and never overshadowing the band or the music - quite an accomplishment in a venue this large. 

A lot can be said about the band Tool. In today’s current musical climate, it’s still somewhat of a rarity to find a band that conducts themselves the way they do. They have a small body of work - in 30 years as a band, they’ve only released 5 full length albums. When you consider other bands that actively record and tour, that’s not many. In an era where digital delivery is the dominant form of consuming music, they go out of their way to come up with unique ideas for the physical presentation of their work - Aenima had a lenticular cover, 10,000 Days came with stereoscopic lenses built into the case to view the artwork.

They held out until just this year to make their catalog digitally. And they made the physical version of their new album Fear Inoculum only available in 2 limited edition packages - one that came with a built in LCD screen to view video content. Unique? Sure. Cheap? No, the one with the video screen retailed for $50. Didn’t matter, it was the best selling rock album of 2019 with over 300,000 sold, which includes selling out of that $50 CD package.

With that in mind, I think it goes without saying that the Tool fanbase is incredibly loyal. Which makes perfect sense that on their current tour they can play 2 markets in Oregon a day apart and come close to selling out both venues. And after the opening notes of the title track off of their new album, the vast majority of that sold out crowd rose to their feet and stayed there for the duration of the show. In addition to being an auditory treat, the live Tool experience has a very elaborate visual component. Think of it like Pink Floyd, but for metalheads.

Lights, strobes, fog, and continuous video content projected onto a huge backdrop behind the band, provided a visual accompaniment to the music being played. The band itself was in the forefront. Drummer Danny Carey was on a riser in the center, as his innovative drumming drives their sound. He was flanked on either side by guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor. Maynard James Keenan, their reclusive frontman stood behind the players on one of two platforms placed in the back of the stage, preferring his vocals to be just one more component to the music instead of making a more visible presence out in front of the audience.

The setlist leaned heavily on the new album mixed with a few older songs, and nothing from their first 2 releases. The band sounded good - each player getting a little bit of time in the spotlights during the 2 hour to showcase their ability (with Carey getting his own showcase at the start of the encore). By the time it was all over, it’s easy to see why the band has such a following. It was the ideal presentation for that material. The visual components meshed perfectly with the songs, making for a pretty immersive experience and never overshadowing the band or the music - quite an accomplishment in a venue this large. If my favorite band only released an album once every 6 years on average, I’d want seeing them live to be worth the wait. From what I saw and heard at the Moda Center last night, I’d have a hard time arguing that it wasn’t.


Fear Inoculum
Forty Six & 2

Chocolate Chip Trip

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