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7/29/02 Tool in need of some repair Art-metal band amazes with stellar songs, but has a tour stage show on its last legs
By By Matt Dentler (Daily Texan Staff)
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Gerry McCarthy/Daily Texan Staff

Tool guitarist Adam Jones, left, and lead singer Maynard James Keenan, right, take turns shocking the crowd Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center. [Click to enlarge]
Gerry McCarthy/Daily Texan Staff

Tool drummer Danny Carey gave his band ample support behind the drumkit. Though, legendary 1980s rock drummer Terry Bozzio joined him during the show's encore. [Click to enlarge]
It's hard to say if the forces of good or the forces of evil were at play Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center. Popular art-metal band Tool headlined a show of such magnificent rock spectacle, it's difficult to say whether it was good or bad. But sure enough, it was memorable, it was outrageous and it was even, at times, engrossing.

Clouded in as much mystery as they are fog machines, Tool's current summer leg finds them hitting venues they missed on last autumn's tour (when they performed at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Selma, Texas). But it was practically the same show, with a few new bells but not many new whistles filled into the mix.

Opening strong with their first hit, 1993's "Sober," the crowd - predominantly made up of younger fans, rabid with anticipation - was rushed into a hot frenzy. Lead singer Maynard James Keenan, as is customary for the enigmatic frontman, loomed in the background with his back facing the audience for most of the show. And as the first few songs let their last few notes fade away, Keenan disrobed, removing various parts of his ensemble, leaving him with nothing more then black underwear and a stripe of black paint on his face.

"It's an honor to be in Austin. It doesn't sound like Austin, it sounds more like Corpus Christi," Keenan teased the cheering crowd with one of his few moments of chit-chat. Tool proceeded to amaze with several songs, including current single "Parabola." Like most of the set, this charging and sprawling epic was accompanied by perfectly synchronized video art projected on nearby screens.

The rest of the set was scattered with hits such as "Stinkfist" and "Aenima," songs from their 1996 classic album Aenima. What proves telling is the fact that the songs from this six-year-old record seemed the freshest and most welcome moments of the evening. The songs from last year's album Lateralus have some staying power, but not nearly as much and not nearly enough. The Aenima songs are timeless classics, while the Lateralus songs just have a hard time standing up after repeated live performances.

Nevertheless, Lateralus songs such as "The Grudge" still packed a wallop and brought the band's fierce energy to center, or left-of-center, stage. In fact, during the encore performance of "Triad," former Missing Persons and Frank Zappa drummer - as well as local resident - Terry Bozzio walked onstage to lend his talents at the drumkit. It created a tribal and corrosive flame to Tool drummer Danny Carey's already impassioned skills. With Bozzio, came opening band Tomahawk's leader Mike Patton on synthesizers. The former Faith No More singer appeared to have a better time with Tool than with his own band before the headliners.

More than just an exciting moment, Bozzio's presence cemented the fact that Tool stands as one of the lone prog/rock torchbearers working today. And, when it's all said and done, they do a masterful job at it. Even with "Triad," the encore was prolonged and anticlimactic. The band crunched pretty much all of the bombastic and fast rock into the first hour and a half, leaving the remaining half-hour as not much more than a long show taking a long time to slouch its way to a welcomed end.

A bad show? Not at all. A frustrating experience? Moderately. Tool has the goods and puts on a blinding display of heavy metal energy mixed with cerebral art focus. It's simply that this tour has lived a really long life, and is ready to be reinvented once again. Housing this show indoors at the Erwin Center provided a stunning sense of art-rock theater, but Tool needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to breathe fresh air inside it.

Some musicians can take the same show on the road for years. But if it's heavy on the spectacle (i.e. video, smoke, pyro), then it needs plenty of revamping. Otherwise, you venture into Spinal Tap territory of self-parody (the pentagrams and skeletons this time were a little repetitive). It's surprising, because you'd think Tool is the last band on the planet that doesn't want to be taken seriously, for better or worse, for good and evil.
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