Tool impresses Boston fans with a wondrous, mind-bending set

Lead singer Maynard James Keenan (left) and bassist Justin Chancellor (right) of the Tool band are pictured on Nov. 14 at TD Garden. Courtesy of Brandon Karavitch via Geoffrey Tobia

Thirteen years after their last album, “10,000 Days” (2006), was released, Tool made shockwaves across the music scene with the release of  a new album: “Fear Inoculum” (2019). A Los Angeles-based rock band, Tool has been hailed as one of the best bands across many genres, including alternative metal, prog metal, math rock and experimental rock. Its discography is considered by many to be one of the most flawless discographies of any band, and its latest addition has excited both old and new fanbases. Along its tour in support of “Fear Inoculum,” Tool stopped at the TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 14 to perform a live set.

Opening act Killing Joke kicked off the energy as fans began to pour in from bars and extremely long lines for Tool merch. Physically, Killing Joke’s lead singer Jaz Coleman radiated serious Ozzy Osbourne-esque energy, as he was clad in an all-black suit, and wore white makeup on his face. Coleman would lift his hands and look around, as if he were trying to conjure up spirits. His vocal delivery proved to be much more deep and growly than Ozzy’s, which fit the band’s hard-hitting instrumentals well. Killing Joke was welcomed well by fans, and was given a substantial applause as the band exited the stage.

The first Tool member to take the stage was drummer Danny Carey, who was dressed in a Boston Celtics jersey (Larry Bird, for those curious), which was greeted very well. Then, cheers for the first song began immediately, as the opening synth to the title track “Fear Inoculum” rang throughout TD Garden. The rest of the band members made their way onstage, and finished off the song, with the help of singing and screaming fans.

As an introduction, the only words that lead singer Maynard James Keenan had for Boston were “DUNKIN F***IN DONUTS!” After a mix of laughter and cheer filled the Garden, the band began to play “Ænima,” the title track off of their 1996 album of the same name. One of the main features of the set was a projected set background that featured Tool music videos and other miscellaneous Tool-esque artwork, including a Mandelbrot set. A gray string curtain surrounded the band, which also allowed for a secondary projection of swirling purple lines, lightning bolts and other visual effects to surround the stage. 

Following “Ænima,” the stage went dark, and Keenan began to sing words that the entire crowd sung along to: “Who are you to wave your finger? You must’ve been out of your head.” One of Tool’s most popular songs, “The Pot” (2006) drew one of the greatest reactions of excitement from the audience. It would be difficult to find a concert with a greater amount of devil horns thrown up by fans than during this song.

The curtains opened up when it came time for “Pneuma” off of “Fear Inoculum” (2019). The song had a perfect set design, and the play style was executed incredibly. The buildup for “Pneuma” was perfect, and as the first guitar bridge played, the background changed from blue swirling clouds to a red-hot wall of magma. One of the most intense moments in the setlist was during the final heavy chorus, where the usual bassline was paired with an intense, chugging guitar riff to up the intensity. 

You could feel the souls of diehard Tool fans escape their bodies in a brief moment of ecstasy as the intro for “Schism” (2001) played. Then, the song’s famous bassline began to play, which was met with deafening uproar. Watching bassist Justin Chancellor work his fingers to play the complex bassline was truly a sight to see. To accompany the song, the music video for “Schism” played, which features human-like aliens in a gray cave-like setting. Albeit a little distracting, it added another visual component of the show that further entertained fans.

The intro riff to “Jambi” (2006) followed, which was met with a plethora of screams and whistles. When Keenan wasn’t singing, he was squatting, rocking back and forth, anxiously waiting to get back up to the mic. The background featured a square spiral that mimicked the pattern of the golden ratio. During “Intolerance,” off of their debut album “Undertow” (1993), many fans were too busy head-banging to catch that the bassist was trying to get a clap going. “Forty Six & 2” (1996) then followed, in which the curtains reappeared, and swirling orange spotlights came over Chancellor and lead guitarist Adam Jones. At the conclusion of this song, the front row all bowed down religiously to the band as they exited the stage for a 12-minute intermission.

When the break was over, Carey took the stage again, this time in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. This, of course, was met with a mix of laughs and boos. Carey went up to a gong on one of the stage’s platforms and played a quick solo, switching between drumsticks and gong mallet. This led into “Chocolate Chip Trip,” (2019) which was an impressive mix between drum solo and drum pad solo. The rest of the band re-entered to play “Invincible,” (2019) which shook the Garden once again into head-banging and cheering. Another classic song, “Stinkfist,” (1996) served as the final song, and then Tool’s set came to a conclusion.

To sum up the collective feeling of fans leaving a Tool concert, I give you this anecdote. Walking down Causeway Street, among the heavy commotion, I saw a man leaning over and calling for his buddy, and drunkenly fell over doing so. One fan passing by the other way screamed “Yeah, TOOL!” in reaction to the amusing blunder. In short, no Tool fan left the stadium feeling anything less than satisfaction and awe.


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