What do you get from a guy dressed in black with incredible patience? A Tool Fan, that’s what. Tool’s latest release, Fear Inoculum, finally dropped into our stratosphere a full 13 years since the band’s previous release, 10,000 Days, and is serving as one of the most important albums of 2019. The four-piece band has since commenced on a lengthy “Fear Inoculum Tour,” and brought their critically acclaimed album to Denver for show and tell. The tour stop was intended to be for one evening —Tuesday, October 15 — but popular demand influenced an additional performance on Wednesday, October 16.
The Pepsi Center filled both nights with cult-like fans eager to see members Danny Carey (in a full Nuggets uniform) on drums, Adam Jones on guitar, Justin Chancellor on bass and, of course, Maynard James Keenan using his vocals to complete the Tool sound. As his mates rocked their hard instrumentals, Keenan stood perched on platforms on either side of Carey on the drums, offering eccentric dance moves along with his signature voice.
True to Tool’s form, the stage set up was fully integrated for multiple phases of dramatic visuals throughout the night. A fringe curtain swept in front of the band and back several times throughout the evening, slightly obscuring the musicians. The pulsating instruments pumped out their rock-hard favorites, simplistic yet layered and dashed with Keenan’s lyrics. Despite his brooding look, Keenan took various moments in the night to connect intimately with the audience. The singer rarely spoke, but popped in on the microphone intermittently to kid around. “Stop me if you have heard this one before,” joked Keenan. “But it smells like marijuana in here.”
Eventually, the curtain took a back seat to striking lasers that darted out from the stage into the faces on the methodically bobbing heads in the crowd. Smoke crept from up under the stage, creating an eerie ambiance for beloved tracks like “The Pot” and “Forty-Six & 2.” The band had enacted a strict no camera policy for the evening, which encouraged full attention to the stage without the hinderance of filming for Snaps and Stories.
The band wrapped up their set and hopped off the stage for a brief break. A 15-minute countdown projected on-screen assured fans when they would return, leaving out the guesswork for what they would miss if they braved the trek to the bathroom. Upon their arrival, Carey ventured to the spotlight first to rattle off an impressive solo (which included a giant gong) before being joined by his comrades. Right before the final song, “Stinkfist,” Keenan announced that the ending was near and awarded his fans permission to record the last lick of the night. There was hardly a hand in the audience left without a phone to capture the remaining moments of the show.
Fear Inoculum marks a new chapter in Tool’s career — although however long this chapter is meant to take remains a mystery. Fans and critics alike agree the album takes their distinct sound and refines it further into itself, and the live performance that accompanies the show lives up to the expected performance art.