Magical mystery Tool

In typical fashion, things stay nice and dark

GOOD STUFF, MAYNARD <br>Maynard James Keenan doesn’t pose for the camera at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre.

Maynard James Keenan doesn’t pose for the camera at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre.

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

Review: Tool and Isis at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Sat., Sept. 2.

Maynard James Keenan scares me. Or maybe having Maynard James Keenan a mere 10 feet away, shielding his face from the camera, is what was scary Saturday night. Wouldn’t want to upset Maynard. God speaks through him, you know.

The voice of prog-rock’s finest, Tool, stepped out on stage shirtless and sporting a cowboy hat, which he quickly whipped off to reveal a mohawk. The band immediately launched into “Stinkfist” to a howling crowd.

It became quickly apparent, after leaving the pit area of the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Marysville and making my way to my seat—way in the back—that the show was not about seeing the band. So it was actually appropriate that Maynard didn’t want to be photographed.

Tool rocked out on a minimalist stage—white floor, white backdrop, amps hidden. No big spectacle on stage. It was all about the video monitors. And actually, the white backdrop was also a screen. It was probably there to make sure those in the pricey front rows could see the real show playing on the big monitors by the stage. Joke’s on them. (Too bad there was a huge tree blocking half the right screen.)

Those who were in their seats for opener Isis got a treat, though. The experimental band from L.A. was a bit more crowd-friendly than Tool, even though the lyrics were few and far between. Their instrumentals were heavy, somewhat psychedelic and very cool.

Tool played a medley of its greatest hits. All your favorite songs were on the list, from “Schism” to “Forty-Six & 2.” I counted a mere three songs off the new album (10,000 Days) including, of course, “Vicarious.” There was an awesome rendition of “Opiate” that got the crowd dancing. I hadn’t realized until the show how difficult Tool is to dance to. It didn’t stop me—or anyone else—from bopping awkwardly in front of our seats while singing along.

The music was solid, unsurprisingly, and the band threw in some long intros that built up the suspense. Which song is this one gonna be? I was kind of surprised to see Maynard dancing—maybe because he seems too dark to dance, or maybe because when I saw him perform with A Perfect Circle he just kind of hunched. He got into it, though, at times straddling his mic stand, at others kicking his legs high in the air.

But again, I have to say the show was more about what was happening on the screens than what the band was doing, or even what it was playing. It almost felt like one of those IMAX music shows, you know, where they play Dark Side of the Moon to video—call this one Tool’s Greatest Hits.

Images of aliens and babies and planets and hypnotic spirals pulsed with the music. The most memorable sequence was during “Schism.” It appeared to be aliens trying to communicate (the words: “I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them tumble down / No fault, none to blame it doesn’t mean I don’t desire to … bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication").

At one point toward the end, the lighters came out. It was oddly refreshing to see actual lighters swaying in the air instead of cell phones. Maynard even commented on it: “I thought they confiscated all your crack pipes at the door. What are you doing with all those lighters?” I don’t know about crack, but let’s just say the audience was definitely down with “The Pot.”

The one-song encore of “Aenima” was an appropriate end to the night, but the hour-and-a-half set left the audience wanting more.

“We’d love to stay,” Maynard said (this was the second and final time he addressed the audience), but apparently there was “too much hotel porn” to attend to.