July 22, 2009

Mile High Music Festival 2009 Wrap-Up: Tool

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Tool. What more really needs to be said?

For those of you unfamiliar with the Tool live set, which is probably quite a few people because Tool plays, oh, like once a year, I have to say that, regardless of whether or not you like their music on the radio or in your video games, you, if given the chance, should see this band. This is the second time for me, the last time being right after they released 10,000 Days (their most recent album), and even though I haven't really listened to Tool much after that show 2 or 3 years ago, I could still sing along to most the songs. This is the type of impact a band like Tool has on people, I've noticed. Even though they write songs with very peculiar structures and uncommon time signatures, people can still sing along with Maynard's hooky vocals, and people can tell a Tool song from anything else just by hearing a few chords. That's really just talking about the recorded stuff though.

When people talk about Tool's live set, it almost seems foolish to ask how it was, because there is no way someone would ever imagine a Tool set wouldn't be absolutely perfect and fantastic. There is simply no question that they are some of the best performers ever, to the extent that even typing that there is no question makes me think to myself "well duh." It's strange when Maynard addresses the audience, because it barely even seems like you're at a live event, the band being so utterly perfect.

Yes, the show was perfect. Was it Nu-Metal? Was it Alt. Rock? Who knows. It didn't, and doesn't, matter. They had lasers. They covered the stage in white and projected images onto it. They projected images onto a giant white sheet behind them. There were giant TV's behind the band projecting images. It was in all respects an all out sensory overload. At one point The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney came out and beat out some rhythms on what appeared to be a djimbe, but it wasn't mic'ed properly so I couldn't really hear what was going on with it, which was a shame.

They saved their mega hit, Vicarious, for last. After their second to last song, they just stood there on stage, knowing they would soon be called back and opting for just waiting on stage. I don't really know what to think of such boldness. Was it pompous? Certainly. Was it a statement about how popular they are? Probably. There are so many baffling things that the members of Tool do that there is no way to really understand their motives without being a close personal friend, because if you're not, they always have the option of straight up lying to you.

During Tool's performance I came to a few conclusions. I liked the fact that they were exposing people to crazy styles of music (odd time signatures, almost completely noise break downs, etc), but, from the sample of people I encountered at both of the Tool shows I've been too, I don't really think the people really care, or even really notice. When Tool went into a 10 minute noise break down at Mile High, all the people around me started chatting away, a couple people actually yelling "play a freaking song!" (not the first time I'd heard that, but certainly the first time I'd ever heard it yelled at a major act like Tool), and when the break down was over and a familiar riff was played, people started engaging in the show again, almost forgetting that the little noise break down had happened at all. The only reason people can follow along with the 6/4, then 7/4, then 5/4 rhythms is because of Maynard's fantastically sculpted hooky lyrics that, at their core, talk about very heavy topics, topics that get glossed over because "heh heh, he said a curse word, heh heh." Anyway, one conclusion is that while Tool is doing a good thing by exposing people to artfully done music, they're also giving people who would normally hate artfully done music a chance to brag that they like art rock, when in reality they just like Tool. And one conclusion is that Tool has transcended criticism.

and so: Tool. What more really needs to be said?

Tool - You Lied (Live)

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