Saturday 22 June 2019

On Stage: Tool @ Ziggo Dome

I had to look it up to find out when the last time was that I saw Tool play live. It turns out it was 2006 at the Rock Werchter festival, a few years before I started this blog. I was lucky enough to have seen them a few days before in the Heineken Music Hall (now called AFAS Live) as well. They would play the Lowlands festival the year after for their last visit to this country. I was supposed to go there like I did every year in those days, but a personal tragedy decided otherwise. Finally tonight after all those years, the band returns to the low lands and my home town.

Tool at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, June 18 2019

Photo by Ben Houdijk

A lot of water has passed through the Amsterdam canals since that last time and the world has changed a lot, but a new Tool album still hasn't dropped (August 30th!). It only helped building the mythical character of this band. They are playing the Ziggo Dome which is three times the size of the HMH where I saw them in 2006. Still it sold out in 10 minutes, but I was lucky enough to get me and some friends arena tickets. We make sure to get there early to find us a good spot, which allows us to see Fiend warm up the crowd. They do a good job and I like their heavy psychedelic stoner sound.

Photo by Ben Houdijk

You can feel the anticipation in the air when everyone is waiting for Tool to start their show. When the lights go out, the band enters the stage in the dark and starts playing 'Ænema', title track of what may arguably be their best album. There's a strict no camera policy, so there isn't a sea of cell phones rising from the crowd. However it forced me to borrow some pictures again though. Right from the start it seems the band wants us to know that things haven't changed in the world of Tool. 'The Pot' follows, 'Parabol' and 'Parabola' are perfectly glued together, and they couldn't have made a better start. Like always the visuals are wonderful, totally supporting the music. There are even parts of their old videos showing from "back in the days". Once and a while a fully transparent sceen will come down where more abstract visuals are projected on, almost creating a 3D effect.

Photo by Ben Houdijk

The first new song is 'Descending' which feels a bit ill at ease after the monumental start. No need to worry when an epic version of 'Schism' follows. Maynard James Keenan's voice is clear and strong, while he's sporting a new mohawk this time, although I have the feeling he used to sings certain parts more aggressively. It could just be my memory failing me though. Guitarist Adam Jones is playing his complex parts with incredible precision and bassist Justin Chancellor is the only one who is actually trying to connect with the crowd. At the same time he's playing his groovy bass lines as if they are actually very easy. Together with out of this world drummer Danny Carey the two are creating all those complex rhythms and changing odd time signatures that they are known for.

Photo by Ben Houdijk

What makes Tool so unique is that you know and can hear it is very complicated what they are doing, but it still feels natural, as if it makes total sense that the songs sound that way. It doesn't feel like small parts glued together or playing difficult music only to show off. It always feels like a whole and proper songs. It's all played to perfection where every note is thought out, but still it never sounds too mechanical and never lacks spontaneity. This is incredibly impressive and it shows how great a musicians they are, in total control of their instruments and music. Only the really great ones are able to play complex music and make it sound so natural and organic.

So was this a perfect show? No, I don' think so. After a vicious and mental performance of 'Forty Six & 2' there's a twelve minute intermezzo even with a projected count down, that seems quite unnecessary. A shorter break would allow them to play an extra song. The new song 'CCTrip' after that, is a Danny Carey drum solo where he's also fiddling around with a synthesizer. I love Danny Carey and he is one of my drum heroes. His relaxed style is wonderful to watch, where he doesn't seem to break a sweat playing insane grooves with complex double bass patterns. However this drum solo feels out of place and I would have liked them playing another song here. So there are a few weaker moments, but it doesn't take away the fact that this was an incredible show. The quartet proves it once more, when they end the night with a stunning 'Stinkfist', which is a showcase of the quality and skills of this one of a kind band. The best part is: I get to see them again next week on Rock Werchter, exactly like in 2006. Wooohooo!

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01. Ænema
02. The Pot
03. Parabol
04. Parabola
05. Descending
06. Schism
07. Invincible
08. Intolerance
09. Jambi
10. Forty Six & 2
11. CCTrip (Danny Carey drum solo)
12. Vicarious
13. Stinkfist

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