The four members of Tool have set the precedent for the reluctant rock star. Despite releasing only six full-length albums in almost 30 years and not pandering to media or fans alike, the quartet’s uncompromising dedication to their vision has drawn a legion of diehard followers. Those patient fans filled the seats of the Spokane Arena with a sea of black T-shirts and raised fists on the band’s tour supporting their latest Grammy-winning record, Fear Inoculum.
A white tassel curtain separated the audience from the band for the first few songs, transparent enough to see the performers but dense enough for the light show to play off of. Singer Maynard James Keenan eschewed traditional front-and-center singer placement as he sang “Fear Inoculum,” instead pacing between risers on either side of drummer Danny Carey, his spiky mohawk silhouetted against the background lights while he crouched like a gargoyle, drumming his hands on the edge of his platform.
Keenan remained so ensconced in shadows that the term “frontman” felt like a misnomer. Occasional spotlights shone down on guitarist Adam Jones during solos, and bassist Justin Chancellor careened to the music like a possessed marionette, but Carey was the only musician continuously illuminated, as his thunderous drumming commanded constant attention from both the audience and his bandmates. However, there wasn’t a shortcoming of spectacle; kaleidoscopic fractals and unsettling sci-fi imagery played continuously on video screens on the risers and behind the stage, and lasers shot over the crowd from both ends of the arena.
The night’s setlist mixed new album cuts with old favorites, from the extensive guitar pyrotechnics of “7empest” to the crowd-favorite “Schism.” During “Jambi,” Jones crossed the length of the stage to stand shoulder to shoulder with Chancellor, throwing his arm around the bassist while looking up and imploring the crowd to show his partner some love. Following “Forty Six & 2” the band stood statuesque as the lights faded for intermission.
After the break, Carey stood alone in front of a massive gong, where he proceeded to pound out the drum solo “Chocolate Chip Trip,” transitioning to his drum kit midway as the others re-emerged and slid into “Invincible.” Throughout the show, a no-phones policy was strictly enforced, but before their closing number, Keenan remarked, “If you promise to wash your hands after, you may take your phones out now and play with them in public.” With that the band launched into “Stinkfist” as the arena became awash in the glow of mobile devices.