Tool & Yob. Live @ The Moda Center in Portland, Oregon [03.06.14]

Tool:Yob 4I don’t think I’ve met a Tool fan that doesn’t hold them in the highest of regards. Virtually every enthusiast of this band that I have met does this, except it sometimes comes off as masturbatory praise.

“They are the best live band I’ve ever seen. The audience joins together as one…. almost as if they are part of a tribe or village. This won’t just be a live show, It’ll be art. So many people don’t get it.  I’ve seen them more than any other band; Maynard James Keenan is a genius. Did you know they wrote a song based on the Fibonacci sequence?”

– Every fan of Tool I know

 

Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the social impact that Tool has had on the musical landscape. Especially in the metal community. I can appreciate it. I actually really enjoy their body of studio work. I feel like Ænema is a nearly flawless album, and is one of the most important metal albums of the ’90s, if not all time. That being said, their live performance was…..different. It was unlike any other I’ve seen.

Eugene, OR doom metal Trio Yob took the stage early. Ten minutes before scheduled curtain. They were a bit hard to read at first. They opened with the drudging “Quantum Mystic” from their 2005 album The Unreal Never Lived. At first I felt they were lacking enthusiasm. As the crowd began to fill out a bit more, Mike Scheidt(vocals/guitar) altered his vocals from a surprisingly raspy black metal-esque shriek, into his deep signature roar. Yob has gotten the opportunity to open for Tool before Although the crowd wasn’t participating, they seemed to be having a decent time bringing their doom to the masses. I’ve seen them before and in my opinion, while they could fill nearly any size venue with their massive sound, they are a band to observe in a more intimate setting.

Tool:Yob 3After a brief sound check, it was time for Tool. They took the stage and opened with “Third Eye”, the closer from their seminal album, Ænima. Immediately, a great deal of things stand out to me. There is no microphone in at the front of the stage. Maynard James Keenan has positioned himself parallel with Danny Carey‘s drum set atop the riser towards the back. He is dressed in head to toe in solid black, with sunglasses and his hair is brightly colored and spiked upward. He essentially looked like a henchman from a cyberpunk gang. It’s an interesting juxtaposition from the other members. Guitarist Adam Jones is also dressed monochromatically, but in a lighter white/tan. Bassist Justin Chancellor dressed very….normal. And drummer Danny Carey was perched behind his kit in a Portland Blazer’s jersey. A strange mishmash for a band that I had always heard was so heavily reliant on visuals.

As they were rounding out the opener, I was very surprised by Adam Jones. All of the players clearly know their part in this band. The rhythm section is unbelievably tight, yet I couldn’t help but get the sensation that they weren’t playing together. It felt like each member of the band was performing separately. When it came time for Jones to spotlight his solo, he played it surprisingly sloppy, and abused his wah pedal more than a drunk Kirk Hammett. A rare low point from a technical performance side. The band then launched into “Vicarious” from their previous studio album, 10,000 Days. It was at this point that I was able to settle in and really absorb the visuals along with the performance.

Tool:Yob 1Behind the band there were three large screens that played clips from their music videos to accompany the tracks they were performing (which in my opinion is sort of lame). The tracks missing music video accompaniment didn’t have a shortage of visuals, however. Guitarist Adam Jones doubles as the band’s visual art director. But as far as I could tell, the visuals were stripped from one of those mid ’90s computer animation odysseys. In my opinion the graphics came off as cheesy. But I don’t discount them. In fact, the nostalgic side of me was thrilled by them. I was definitely watching a band that achieved their peak of relevancy in the ’90s, and I loved that I could see that. To me the visuals harkened back to a time when Marilyn Manson still put on a decent show. Or a time when The Butthole Surfers or White Zombie were still shocking crowds with surgery footage or horror movie clips. The laser lights, the screens filled with bad CGI…. all of it was fun to watch. But it felt absolutely contrary to the band’s live performance, or the overall atmosphere of their music.

Say what you will about the band’s uncompromising practices. It clearly works for them, but it feels cold. It feels pretentious. I understand that is part of how they want to appear, and for a band like Tool, it will  stay that way. It’s worked completely. Maynard James Keenan is a terrific singer and a fantastic lyricist. But he is NOT a frontman. He sticks to the shadows, belting out his vocals in the dark, barely acknowledging the crowd. I wouldn’t change that at all. For such an apocalyptic post metal music project, the idea of a front man would take away from the aesthetic.

Tool:Yob 2I was very surprised at the disconnect there appeared to be between each band member. They were all off on their own section of the stage, not acknowledging each other. Each one playing their part perfectly, but separately. They sounded and looked like a well oiled machine. It was great to see the rhythm section (Chancellor and Carey) show their chops as the virtuosos that they are. However, they definitely seem like the kind of band that emails each other the set list for the upcoming tour and practices at home along with their own records before the tour starts. I have a distinct feeling that the only times these guys play together is when performing live or writing in the studio.

A little over halfway through the set they had a brief intermission, and returned 12 minutes later, clearly going for broke. They upped the visuals by turning on the lasers, and dropping down a screen in front of the stage to display more visuals. They returned with a very impressive drum solo from Carey, and then got down to business. They finished with three crowd favorites: “Forty Six & 2”, “Ænema”, and “Stinkfist”. I was a little disappointed at the crowd, even at this point in the night. Everyone had hyped up to me how the crowd was going to act. How crazy it would be. The crowd seemed fairly tame to be honest. I know I shouldn’t expect it to be like a Slayer show, where everyone goes nuts, but that’s how it was explained to me. Everyone told me how awesome it was gonna be, and it was very “meh”. It felt like I was watching Donnie Darko all over again, and now I get to go tell all my friends that adore it how mediocre it was.

All in all it was a fun night, Tool were very technically proficient, but had no stage presence, and the visuals, while nostalgically pleasing come off a cheesy and forced.

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One Response to Tool & Yob. Live @ The Moda Center in Portland, Oregon [03.06.14]

  1. Jack Davis says:

    I disagree with a few points! Still enjoyed the well written article!
    The visuals could of been rendered at a higher quality, they can afford a South Korean cgi studio.
    Yes people talk the shows up way to much, I think that comes with any fan base. Perhaps with Tools fanbase it is more zealous than others, but no where near the love some have of say Cky. Fargo pop, and color stained clothes.

    Danny Carey stole the show for me once again. I’ve only in person seen one other drummer replicate his style with any accuracy. After seeing roughly half as many live bands as the author. I can say few enter the same Parthenon as Danny Carrey.

    One last little opinion. When you have a song in which one member is playing in 9/8 time signature, another doing 4/4, another doing 7/8 and a guy that is singing over the top of that
    In a cadence that is lyrically tied to the Fibonacci sequence, it would become very hard to play “together”.

    Great write up!

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