Tool Provide Much-Needed Musical Escape at Portland, OR’s Moda Center (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Amidst the backdrop and burgeoning panic of a worldwide pandemic, Tool defiantly pushed on their world tour with a sold out show at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, March 11th. This tour finds the heavy rockers supporting Fear Inoculum, their first new album since 2008, which Glide hailed as a “masterpiece”.

Opening with the title track of Fear Inoculum, a dark and sprawling song that showcases the drum and bass interplay between Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor, it was immediately clear that the band was not deterred by the chaos swirling around the world. Tool’s music has always been otherworldly, providing a psychedelic release for listeners, and on this night that characteristic felt like an antidote for fans looking to focus on something positive. The band would play the first few songs of the night behind a transparent curtain. With the exception of “Ænema” off their 1996 album of the same name, the first batch of songs in the set would all come from Fear Inoculum. “7empest” – one of the strongest new songs – would prove to be a standout among the new songs, encapsulating everything Tool does best with its amalgamation of heavy metal, prog rock, mind-bending psychedelia and commanding vocals from Maynard James Keenan. “Pneuma” would also stand out as a suspenseful instrumental (mostly) that built in its intensity with Adam Jones layering on chunky riffs over Carey’s precise and deeply rhythmic tribal drumming. All of this would be complemented by a trove of omnidirectional lasers.

Famously unpredictable, singer Maynard James Keenan was dressed like a British punk from the 1980s, mohawk and all. He never once came to the front of the stage, instead choosing to lurk back and forth on a raised platform next to Carey while his band was front and center. Musicianship was at a high level throughout the performance as the band twisted their way through older material like the cascading riffage of “Schism” and the thrashy sludge metal of “Jambi”. Keenan would give one of his strongest vocal performances of the night on “Forty Six & 2”, boosted by Chancellor’s thick bass and bouncing bass lines and Jones’ chugging and sinister guitar playing.

Following a twelve minute “intermission” complete with a projected countdown, Danny Carey – dressed in a Portland Trailblazers jersey – returned to the stage alone. For the next several minutes he kept the crowd hypnotized as he sampled a range of strange percussive sounds on his giant gong and drum, offering a masterclass in creative drumming and proving (as he did throughout the night) why he is one of the best drummers on earth. With looped effects and sonic reverberations, Carey’s “Chocolate Chip Trip” felt like his own personal spiritual rave. Carey would continue awing the audience with his powerful blasts balanced with Jones’ atmospheric synths on “Invincible” before the band closed out with one of their best known songs. “Stinkfist” would serve as a proper closer, with Keenan alternating between singing the lyrics through a megaphone and shouting out the more aggressive, punchier verses. Instrumentally, this song found the band giving it their all as Chancellor busted out massive bass lines while Jones soared with arena-filling Jimmy Page-esque guitar playing all backed by Carey’s complex and explosive drumming.

With some of his only words to the crowd of the night, Keenan urged everyone to be safe and to not buy in to hysteria. The crowd for the most part did not appear worried, bonded together by the music, which is a force that will be increasingly important as we embark on this journey of interplanetary sickness. The day after Tool’s Portland appearance, Oregon governor Kate Brown announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people. This effectively made Tool’s show the last large concert to take place in the state for at least a month, a fact that only added to the power and brevity of the band’s performance. There was a lingering feeling of elation in knowing that Tool remains one of the great guitar-driven rock bands and dominating quartets of our time and that music will bring people together in body and spirit regardless of the state of the world.

All photos by Greg Homolka. 

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