Live ReviewsMusic

Tool Takes Spectrum Center Crowd on an Atmospheric Trip

Maynard James Keenan of Tool belts one out into the mic onstage
Maynard James Keenan of Tool. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

If there were any guidelines for attending a Tool show, they would include knowing to cheer when the name of your city is called out and to putting your damned cellphones away. The second one is no surprise; Tool, as well as singer Maynard James Keenan’s other bands Puscifer and A Perfect Circle, have a strict no photo policy. The first, however, needed some encouragement during the band’s tour stop at Spectrum Center on Sunday, Jan. 21.

“Don’t embarrass me in front of my friends,” Keenan told the crowd after two disappointing rounds of applause in response to him calling out the city’s name. He then promised the audience that if everyone was well behaved and kept their phones away, people could take photos and videos during the last song of the night.

Adam Jones of Tool plays a triangle-shaped electric guitar in front of a psychedelic LED background
Guitarist Adam Jones of Tool. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

Keenan wanted the crowd to be present, in the moment, as remaining free from distractions allowed those in attendance to focus on the performance in every aspect. From the sonic onslaught to the visual elements — a massive video screen and occasional lasers brought forth plenty of visual accompaniments — a Tool concert has definitely become a full-on experience.

With a setlist comprised of songs that mostly clocked in at around 10 minutes long, fans needed undivided focus to soak in the entire two-hour performance from start to finish.

Justin Chancellor plays bass onstage
Bassist Justin Chancellor of Tool. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

Often tagged as metal or frat-rock, prog-rock foursome Tool continues to develop its sound with intricate rhythms and churning grooves. And with only five full-length studio albums and one EP under their belt, it’s difficult to believe that the four members — singer Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey — have been together for nearly 30 years, since Chancellor replaced original bassist Paul D’Amour in 1995.

Perhaps what’s most impressive, and often overlooked, are the ages of the band members. Keenan will turn 60 this April. Jones just turned 59. Chancellor is 52. Carey is 62. While no one is going to compare them to the Rolling Stones, it is admirable that the quartet continues to perform at such a high level while continuing to expand their sound.

Drummer Danny Carey of Tool. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

The show focused mostly on the band’s 2019 album, Fear Inoculum, perhaps due to Keenan’s own admission that he doesn’t have the vocal strength to hit the same notes he could decades ago. However, his voice is still as strong and distinct as ever, providing the perfect accompaniment to the instrumental soundscapes created by the other three.

Performed live, Tool’s music has more depth, emotion and punch than the recorded versions often do. While there are always songs that fans will want to hear (considering they only played about a dozen at this stop), I can’t imagine anyone left Sunday night’s concert disappointed in what they saw or heard.

Fear Inoculum
Rosetta Stoned
The Grudge
Chocolate Chip Trip

Maynard James Keenan crouches onstage with black face paint around his eyes
Maynard James Keenan of Tool. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

Be sure to check out Queen City Nerve’s Soundwave, Charlotte’s most comprehensive live music listing, so you don’t miss out on any shows or concerts coming up. And hell, if you’re looking for something else to do, you can check out our events page as well, which runs the gamut of things to do in Charlotte. You don’t ever have to be bored again. You can check out more of Jeff’s pics and live reviews here.

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