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Five thoughts: Tool at T-Mobile Arena (January 17) + setlist

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Tool, shown here performing in 2019, hit T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday night.
Photo: Travis Shinn
Josh Bell

1. At this point, the members of Tool have so successfully conditioned their audience not to pay attention to them onstage that it was not unexpected to see them play the first five songs of the show from behind a translucent curtain with trippy animated images projected on it. The visuals were cool enough that it was almost disappointing when the curtain finally parted, since the four band members remained shrouded in darkness, as is standard for Tool shows, although there were plenty of eye-catching graphics on screens behind them.

2. Tool is currently touring in support of the band’s first album in 13 years, last year’s Fear Inoculum, and of the three new songs (not counting instrumental drum solo “Chocolate Chip Trip”) in the set, “Pneuma” translated best to the live setting, with its slowly building crescendos and powerful hooks. The lengthy songs on Fear Inoculum sound a bit meandering and even tedious at times on the record, but the band gave them some extra energy in concert, and “Pneuma” proved that this material can fuel another decade or more of live shows, if it takes that long for another Tool album to emerge.

3. Tool’s songs and visuals are intricate enough that the setlists on this tour have remained mostly the same for each show, so there’s not much room for surprises. But it was still a treat to hear the brief, angry burst of “Part of Me,” from the 1991 EP Opiate, a four-minute old-fashioned metal song in contrast to the more expansive later Tool material that made up most of the set. Singer Maynard James Keenan, who didn’t have much to say to the audience overall, introduced the song by asking every audience member under 30 to raise their hands, telling them, “When we wrote this song, you weren’t even sperm yet.”

4. If rock shows still have to include drum solos, then Tool’s Danny Carey is one of the only drummers deserving of that spotlight, as he proved on his impressive performance of “Chocolate Chip Trip.” Carey started out by playing a massive gong before sitting down at his drum kit, which had another, smaller gong behind it. Sure, it was self-indulgent, but it was also virtuosic and idiosyncratic, which pretty much sums up all of Tool’s music.

5. Despite the seemingly deliberate efforts at audience alienation, Tool still managed to pack the arena with eager fans, and the band balanced the esoteric moments with popular radio hits like “Aenema,” “Schism” and “The Pot,” which was an early highlight of the set. Keenan may prefer to stand in the shadows at the back of the stage, but his voice was prominent in the mix, providing sing-along moments even for a band determined to defy musical convention.

Setlist:

“Fear Inoculum”

“Aenema”

“The Pot”

“Parabol”

“Parabola”

“Pneuma”

“Schism”

“Jambi”

“Vicarious”

“Part of Me”

“Forty-Six & 2”

Encore:

“Chocolate Chip Trip”

“Invincible”

“Stinkfist”

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