Classics Carry Yet Another Strong Tool Show at Toyota Center

Tool, Primus, 3TEETH
Houston Toyota Center
January 14, 2K16

When it comes to arena tours, pop stars and rappers have it easy. If you’ve got the pop-industrial complex behind you, every tour is an elaborate wonderland in which you’re the star. If you’re a rapper, odds are good you’ve been pumping out new music on the regular, so there are always new hits for you to play.

For rock bands, it’s more of a struggle. In this day and age, how do you make a bunch of dudes with instruments seem interesting? If you’re a band lucky enough to be able to play huge venues, you’ll have some pomp and circumstance, but it’s really going to come down to having better than great songs to get people in the door.

That Tool sold out the Toyota Center again is a testament to the strength of their catalog. For the faithful, it’s always going to be worth shelling out the cash to hear “Schism” and “Stinkfist” and whatever surprises get thrown into the set. Those songs have aged incredibly well, and the new live additions continue to amaze and make you wish for an honest-to-God Tool live album.

Of course, the classics are all you can really hope for from Tool these days, given that they haven’t released any new music since Obama was just a Senator from Illinois. They do have one new song that appears in the set list, a fragment from a longer song currently called “Descending,” and for what it is, it’s real good. It harkens back to the last few tracks on Lateralus, and seeing as how the odds of anyone hearing “Disposition”/”Reflection” live again are pretty slim, I’ll take what I can get. Plus, the imagery felt like something that might have been born in the Lateralus era, even though I doubt their new album will be a Hesitation Marks to Lateralus’s Downward Spiral.

“But what about their mystique?” you ask. “Surely that’s still part of why people go to see them?”

Can’t say I feel that way anymore. A few years ago maybe, but now Maynard has been out in the public eye too much and the rest of the band just seems fairly normal, and Tool just doesn’t really feel weird anymore. Seeing Adam Jones play guitar on a WWE PPV went a long way to humanizing the band in my brain, I guess.

In fact, if anything, I would say the weirdest thing about this Tool show was how much fun it looked like they were having onstage. Justin Chancellor in particular seemed to be having a ball being out on the road and onstage again, but the entire band appeared to be really keyed in together; yes, even Maynard.

In fact, maybe it’s just because of that constant, nagging worry that comes with being a Tool fan of wondering if this will be the year they break up, but the moment that made me smile the most was when the show ended and Danny Carey shared a fistbump with Maynard and hugs with the rest of the guys. It’s a small, dumb thing to care about, but it’s still nice to see.

I, like everyone else in attendance, want new Tool music. It seems bizarre that they have the same number of studio albums as Rage Against the Machine. And for the first time in a long time, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of Tool. Maybe fun is what’s been missing the past decade.

So, How Were the Openers? It feels weird to talk about Primus as an opening act, almost wrong but not quite. They kicked ass, like they do, keeping the set focused and to the point, and getting lots of cheers along the way. Tool and Primus share a lot of fans, at least in Houston. I’m never going to say anything bad about a set that starts with “Those Damn Blue-Collared Tweekers.” As for 3TEETH, I totally get why they’re on the bill, and they weren’t bad, but I think I would have enjoyed seeing them somewhere like Numbers more. Their brand of industrial works, and the dark cinematic overtones are nice, but I’d like it a little more up close and personal.

Personal Bias: I miss the bird that never gets a head chakra.

The Crowd: Lots of adults in black with tattoos, which is pretty weird for the Toyota Center these days. Also, at least one dude from Minneapolis and one woman from the Midwest, if my eavesdropping is correct.

Overheard in the Crowd: “We don’t talk like that. That’s Fargo,” said the dude from Minneapolis, explaining the accents of the North.

Random Notebook Dump: Tool makes me prone to hyperbole, so rather than ruin my review with some really off-the-wall writing, I’ll put this here at the bottom: During “Opiate,” I found myself on my feet, taking in the music and thinking, “I would build a house in the middle section of this song and live there forever.” That thought was so important, I typed it into my phone. I’m not even sure what it really means, but it felt true. Still does.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia