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Tool, The Melvins, Osseus Labyrint - April 24th, 2002 - Sydney, Australia @ Sydney Entertainment Centre

By: See Review

When Tool performed here last July a second Sydney show had to be added in response to the overwhelming rush for tickets. This time around the single show was yet to reach full capacity – almost symbolic of how this year’s was no simple rehash of last year, something many fans were anticipating. But then again, Tool are one of the few bands who have made themselves famous by disregarding all expectations of them.

Tonight’s show was something of an unorthodox one, compared to what the band is usually known for. A strangely chatty Maynard James Keenan broke his self-imposed exile and spoke casually to the crowd, inciting them to a cheer of “Yes!” and sometimes sharing his thoughts, most of which were unashamedly eccentric to say the least. That the anal cavity is on average four degrees warmer than the vagina is one such tidbit Keenan eagerly shared with us, although it was all the more fitting as an intro to the mighty ‘4 Degrees’. But it was the song selection that surprised the masses the most. Focusing largely on Lateralus and to a lesser extent Undertow, ‘Stinkfist’ was the only song from Ænima to appear the entire night, a move that went so far as to cause some people leaving in disappointment.

Opening with the unexpected choice of ‘Flood’ then the more comfortable ‘The Grudge’, Tool really did now more than ever keep the audience in a constant state of unknowing, where almost every step was unpredicted. An extended version of ‘Stinkfist’ that no one saw coming left the crowd shouting lines that weren’t even being sung, and rolling out the entire duo of ‘Disposition’ and ‘Reflection’ entranced some but alienated others with their length. By the same token, the band re-emerged from the intermission of the ‘Parabola’ video (which they had already played on stage) with a seemingly reworked, longer and absolutely stunning ‘Triad’, and honestly who would’ve thought they’d give that one a go. The projector screens portraying the bizarre and twisted visions that are synonymous with Tool completely dominated the visual focus; and considering how little stage presence the band members themselves have, this really was a good thing. With their feet firmly planted on their spot on the stage and their faces obscured by their long hair, the players simply let their instruments communicate, and made no attempt to try it any other way. Adam Jones in particular was a foreboding figure – his sheer stillness contrasted drastically by the strained and pained sounds he forced from his guitar.

Ultimately, Tool played a set that was nearly impossible to fault. The sound was as solid as you’d expect from a high end venue such as the Entertainment Centre, and the band were as impeccably precise on their instruments as they are on record, with every dynamic, subtlety and thread of power displayed flawlessly. Although some may have considered the choice of songs dire, it’s difficult to say when experiencing Tool in concert whether this was detrimental to their devastating impact or not. As esoteric and arcane as their music tends to be, there’s no doubt that this unique group of musicians weave their magic to everlasting effect.

As for the supports, I missed the Melvins but heard they played to solid acclaim, and as for Osseus Labyrint… As it turns out they’re not so much a musical act but a pair of shaven-headed performers, who appeared at certain points in Tool’s set and placed their naked bodies into strange and let’s say different positions. I was there, and I don’t understand it either.

By: Kev Truong

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