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My little Tool review

This review of the Tool show at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater on December 10, 2007 isn’t going to be about sound quality, amazing laser shows, set list reminders, or crowd reactions. You can find lots of that reading elsewhere. My review focuses on the more narrow topic of the actual jam itself. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but I can’t make any promises.

The Los Angeles gig was a homecoming of sorts for Tool, who calls our city their hometown. It goes without saying that such a show, as an unsaid rule, demands the band to bring it on, blow the doors out, and kill it. Because it’s important. Not only for them, but for their hometown neighbors who’ve spent absurd amounts of money to get into the one and only sold-out L.A. gig.

While the performance was wowing, it really wasn’t anything new for a Tool show. Tool shows are always wowing. These guys could cover Boys of Summer and blow everybody’s mind. My problem was the set list, and the other factors that literally defined it. As I write this, I just realized that the set list actually echoes some of my initially negative reactions to the 10,000 Days release last year. It’s an album with about four good songs on it. Vicarious, Jambi, The Pot, and Rosetta Stoned. The rest of the tracks are easily skippable, unless you’re high out in the garage lying on the couch closing your eyes with headphones.

Last I saw Tool was at their legendary Wiltern gig in August of 2001 on the Lateralus tour. I didn’t catch Tool here in L.A. back in September of 2006, but my understanding is that the set list was virtually the same as what we saw last night. Had this been the second time seeing Tool for me this tour, I’d probably be more vocal about what I saw last night.

The show is incredibly produced, which has an undeniable wowing quality that gives concert-goers something to talk about afterwards. Videos. Lasers. Lights. Fog. All that good stuff, sans the cliche explosives. That’s all fine and good, but here’s my opinion:

The live show is becoming a contradiction to the essence of the live Tool experience. With so many rigid technical factors in place, the live show has evolved into a mechanical handicap to the ultra-expressive quality of Tool’s art. This video needs to play here. This laser needs to shine there, at this moment. The fog needs to start here, and end here. The purple lights need to play on this song. And so on. It’s all computerized, meticulously rehearsed, and, well, sorta canned.

There was once a band that wrote a song called Lateralus, with an album by the same name. The underlying theme of the piece, found in the lyrics, the mathematics of the music, the artwork, and the implications of the metaphors, were to approach life laterally. Fuck the linear, fuck the norm. Draw outside the lines. As a matter of fact, fuck the lines. There are no lines. Spiral out. Embrace the random. Embrace whatever may come. Ride that spiral to the end, and we may just go where noone’s been. Be your own person. Think outside the box.

That band was Tool.

I would’ve liked to see Tool take a page from their own book and put it to use. Apply it to 2007. If the lasers and videos and fog machines are making things a little too creatively limiting, THEN THEY’VE OFFICIALLY BECOME A PROBLEM. It’s gotten to the point where the icing is controlling the cake. Time to lose the lasers and the video footage and fog machines. At least for a while. Try turning ’em off for thirty minutes in the middle of the set, light some candles, and just fucking JAM. See what happens. Who knows, maybe they’ll play The Patient. Or Aenema. Or Triad. Or The Grudge. Or Parabola. Or Eulogy. I’m pretty sure lots of these folks will survive the rest of their lives without feeling robbed that they didn’t revisit the indulgent Wings of Marie 10,000 Days thirty minute opus that they ALREADY SAT THROUGH LAST YEAR.

And really. How can you not play The Pot in 2007? Unthinkable.

Hey Tool, you know we love you guys. But next time try something new. Take us where noone’s been. Not even you.

4 comments… add one
  • Steph December 12, 2007, 9:13 am

    a. They didn’t play The Pot????!?!?!?
    b. Tool isn’t the only band who’s gotten too big for their own good- their creative spark smothered by the showmanship expectations of crowds/labels/producers. It’s almost gotten to the point where everything in my daily rotation is acoustic. Almost.
    c. I would sell my left leg to get a Tool cover of Boys of Summer.

  • nixon December 12, 2007, 2:49 pm

    You couldn’t have hit that nail any harder on the head. Well said.

  • Jeff December 15, 2007, 12:54 am

    Yeah. Im a bit tired of the same set lists as well. I totally agree with you on living up to the message of Lateralus… I think the rehearsed video and lightshow almost dictates what they play each time out. Thank GOD they played Flood!!

    However, any real Tool fan would appreciate EVERY song they do… are you one of those people that buys only certain songs off of an album thru iTunes or something, instead of buying the whole record (like most Tool fans) patiently waiting like a hungry animal for the next Tool record like a meal, appreciating the whole record and what it offers? 10,000 Days – quite an achievement in my book – and being the title track is about something personal to Maynard, Im OK with hearing it – not tired of it at all – musicianship wise, a very good song. Plus, how could you not mention ‘Right In Two’ among the songs you listed, a travesty I tell you.

    Anyways, good review dude. But go to more shows. Ive been to every show theyve had within a 100 radius for the past 3 tours. Since the last two shows of thier Lateralus tour, theyve been getting pretty stag. Im waiting for them to do something different as well.

  • jaced.com December 15, 2007, 5:31 pm


    I’ve never bought a song through iTunes.

    This one’s not really about song appreciation. It’s about what many consider to be an anticlimactic L.A. show as a result of the chosen set list.

    I’m very glad this was the first and only time I caught Tool on tour this year. I would’ve been pretty pissed off had I saw them in September 2006, where the show was virtually the same.

    Logic would tell us that it’d be a good idea for the band to put together, say, four set lists. A, B, C, and D. Take those sets on tour. Management keeps track of which sets they played at which cities on the tour. When they revisit a city, they play a different set.

    Since they played Set A last year at Staples, I’m pretty confident that everybody would’ve been more than happy to see them do Set C at Nokia.

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