Mechanics of Deceit
Tool and Cortizone
at the Brixton Academy, London, England
June 12th 2001

by: Paul Schwarz
Cortizone were not a typical Tool support band. In my personal experience -- and judging also on what I have been reliably informed -- Tool usually have bands supporting them who are utterly, unbearably badly suited to the task -- and often just plain bad with it. This three-piece were reasonably listenable. A few of their songs were embarrassingly Tool-borrowing for Cortizone's situation, one was unutterably shite early-Nineties angst-rock of the worst kind, and a few were OK. By the time they'd finished, I decided that I'd like to hear their record before I gave a final judgment on them, but that essentially, I wasn't really interesting in hearing their record. I got Cortizone's debut album, _Selling Out for the Sucker_, a few days ago. They're not a band worth chasing up.

Cortizone over and done with, it was time for an experience I had been waiting to enjoy again for over four years: seeing Tool live. Unfortunately, Tool proved not only to be disappointing, but actively -boring-. Take into account that this is the band that made _Aenima_, the record I would nominate as my favourite record of the Nineties -- above even Carcass' _Necroticism_, Cynic's _Focus_ or Entombed's _Clandestine_. I should have loved every minute of Tool, despite the fact that they played many songs from their latest album, which I had unfortunately found little time to listen to before the gig. No, it wasn't the setlist that was the problem with this show. Certainly not. In fact, with the likes of "Eulogy", "Stinkfist", "Opiate" and "Sober" on the menu, tonight should have been all the more excellent a show. So why wasn't it? Well, the messy, echoing Brixton Academy sound didn't help, but it was essentially Tool themselves and what they did -- or rather -didn't- -- do on stage that made their performance such a frustrating yawn-a-thon. Tool were arranged and "performed" thus on stage: bassist Justin Chancellor and guitarist Adam Jones stood in the foreground of the stage, unmoving with their heads near-unwaveringly pointed at the ground for the duration of the show; Danny Carey played his drums at his drumkit at the back of stage left -- he did more or less all a drummer can do to put on an interesting live performance; Maynard James Keenan stood on his own separate stage at the back of stage right, faced towards Carey for most of the show -- thus he was side-on silhouetted to the crowd -- and moved more than his bandmates as he sang, though he never left his private stage during the performance. There was seemingly no communication between the members of Tool on stage, and certainly no connection with the audience. Tool's music is full of dynamics, and I can't believe the band's willingness to put on so little of a performance physically to their fans who are so enamoured of them. Tool's music may contain themes of isolation -- and maybe there was some meaning to their disconnected presence on stage tonight, though I strongly doubt it -- but the bottom line is that they might as well have been sectioned off into cubicles and obscured from the crowd, such was their seemingly oblivious attitude to our presence -- save for a meagre few words from Maynard, Tool might as well have been performing live in a studio, and in separate rooms to each other. So basically, Tool weren't very interesting to watch, they didn't seem very into their music, and they didn't allow their physical actions -- Maynard is a minor exception to this for his meagre movement -- to mirror the physical, impact-filled nature of much of their music, or its dynamic range. The alternative to watching Tool was watching the video sequences created by Adam Jones which were played on the large projector hung over the stage, and the small screen on Maynard's stage -- Tool's non-existent stage presence suggested watching these and ignoring them might be just what they wanted you to do. These video sequences had some interesting moments -- and were synched, if crudely, to the band's songs -- but were essentially rather passe. It was all the kind of images we've come to expect from Tool: worms with faces that writhe, people swimming naked, decapitated bodies in dirty rooms waving, all with a grimy but still distinctly MTV colour palette. Most annoying though was that the images were mostly simply ten or so second sequences repeated over and over again at varying speeds. There were only a meagre few of the more flowing, continuous, acid-induced visuals that the band projected at their 1997 London Astoria show, and which made a far more interesting complement to their more interesting performance all those years ago. A few of the songs played tonight -- most notable "Opiate" -- gave me some joy, but Tool were on the whole tedious and frustrating. Still, myself and those I went with were almost completely alone in being thoroughly unmoved by the band's performance -- the assembled crowd cheered everything Tool did: they cheered when the band interrupted their set for six minutes to play the "Schism" video, they even cheered when Maynard took the jacket of his suit off. The impression I got was that Tool's audience were simply too overwhelmed with seeing Tool live at all to be in any way discerning -- I wonder how many of them were fans before Perfect Circle's _Mer de Noms_ [CoC #48]. Either that, or I'm too discerning and missed out on the great gig that wonder-struck voices harped on about around me as I took the tube home. Personally, I think Tool should get their heads out of their arses, realise they're not reaching their potential to be the live experience they could be, and then start putting on live performances that would be worth going to if they were on every week, 'cause I know if Tool could turn themselves into a live band which matched their recorded brilliance, I'd got to see them every week if I could.

(article submitted 12/8/2001)


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