head Tool, Maynard James Keenan

Caught in the Undertow

with The Cows
PNE Forum
Vancouver, B.C.
Friday, October 25, 1996

Review by Kevin Templeton
Photography by Paul Clarke

Before the release of Tool's latest recording, Ænima, I must confess, I had the band pegged as your typical slacker-metal outfit with yet another one word moniker, burnt on chemicals and floating in a sea of regurgitated grungola (gross!). Worst-case scenario aside, I guess it just wasn't meant to be, until now. I missed the band on the second stage of Lollapalooza '93 (I saw Arrested Development on the main stage instead -- a fair trade, at the time). The Opiate EP never caught on with me, and Undertow seemed pale in comparison to other releases from its time.

Tool bassist Hindsight being what it is, my perceptions were definitely the exception to the rule, as the Tool buzz hummed its way around the underground (hard) music scene for the three years it took them to release Ænima. Now it all makes sense: Tool, along with the likes of Korn, Rage Against the Machine and Deftones, are leading the pack of "new school" So-Cal rock 'n roll fury. Hang on, it's one hell of a ride.

On with the show. After a brief concert announcement (Soundgarden), which received loud disapproval, and an introduction from C-FOX DJ Lyle Chausse, it became immediately evident that the fracas of Toolveniles had manure in mind and were in no mood to stray from the dry, chemical fervour of the evening's headliners.

The Cows' vocalist Especially unnerving to the contingent of fans on the Forum floor were the Cows, whose singer was dressed in a sailor suit and sleazily gyrated to the band's punkish noise/gut rock sound. The band quickly became victim to some rather unfriendly fire, as the stage was showered with projectiles (coins, mostly), with almost every other person either throwing things or extending the one-finger salute. Clearly not in the mood to be tipped, the Cows stood their ground [ed. Oasis, watch and learn] and bashed away in careful amusement at the crowd's response, which in turn only seemed to incite the hordes' resentment. I must admit the shenanigans put a bit of stun on my concert buzz. I didn't think the Cows were bad enough to the point where direct action needed to be taken.

So Tool can sell out the Forum?!? Yikes! Apparently I'm not the only convert to see the light. Beginning their show with an intro-less version of Ænima opener "Stinkfist" (which gets my vote for rock/metal anthem of '96), Tool took control of the audience with their politically (and chemically) correct post-metal raunch, complete with short, quick bursts of white noise and black psychedelia. Speaking of psychedelia, the huge screen behind the stage was grand entertainment in itself, with non-stop trip-friendly imagery that melted smoothly with the transcending onstage sounds.

"Pushit" displayed some fine musical proficiency with its melodic restraint and inventive structures, and "Eulogy" featured some of the more abrasive and interesting riffs and vocal patterns around. The bass-heavy "Sober" raised the (sub)urban disaffection on the floor, and many of the males where I was sitting head Tool, Maynard James Keenan began to turn to their female partners for permission to partake in a little frenzied dancing up at the front. Undertow's "Prison Sex" highlighted the band's grunge sensibility, while other improvisational moments hinted at industrial, progressive and even classic rock influences.

Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan, shaved/painted from head-to-toe and wearing only boxer shorts, is certainly one of the more entertaining-yet-anti-social frontmen I've seen in awhile. At least half of Keenan's performance was spent facing the drums, with his caustic, skeletal movements matching the "naked" vibe transpiring on stage (all four members performed shirtless, and there were two fetal-positioned mannequins on either side of the stage). Keenan at one point announced his defense of the Cows, and half-heartedly berated his adulating fans for their "rude fucking behaviour" towards the opening band. "Well fuck you too, then!!" yelled one guy behind me...

Tool were amazing. Not a bad trip to be had.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 8, 1996

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