Metal Hammer (UK) - - The Gospel - JOE DALY

Enig­matic art rock­ers lead a pa­rade of 90s rock mav­er­icks

Tool al­ways seem to evis­cer­ate ex­pec­ta­tions

Life is hard for Tool fans. For a band who en­joy the sort of twitchy-eyed, rev­er­en­tial sta­tus typ­i­cally re­served for spir­i­tual icons and doc­tors who end plagues, the band have re­paid such devo­tion with a pal­try four stu­dio al­bums. Fans would du­ti­fully point out the heroic depth and mes­meris­ing pre­ci­sion of each, but even their nois­i­est de­fender would pri­vately con­fess to soul-crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment that they haven’t re­leased a sliver of new mu­sic for 11 ag­o­nis­ing years. Oc­ca­sion­ally, how­ever, Tool throw their fans a bone, such as their re­cent tour, which comes to a close tonight at the San Manuel Am­phithe­ater, a sprawl­ing out­door venue couched in the arid, crum­bling hills of San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia. Or ‘San Ber­doo’ to lo­cals and mem­bers of out­law mo­tor­cy­cle clubs. The band have stacked tonight’s sup­port slots with an ec­cen­tric gang of con­ven­tion-dodg­ing rule-break­ers from those halcyon days of the 90s. In view of tonight’s line-up, the venue should have hung a sign above the turn­stiles say­ing, ‘Aban­don all hope of bor­ing, 4/4 rock’n’roll, all ye who en­ter here’.

First up are MELVINS [7], who get right down to busi­ness, rip­ping through new ma­te­rial like Euthana­sia along­side 1993’s Hag Me. Al­though it’s barely four o’clock and the blind­ing Cal­i­for­nia sun an­grily sears the thin crowd be­neath, they carry on im­per­vi­ously, treat­ing the early birds to a sludgy, hard-groov­ing 30-minute set that in­cludes a spi­ralling, psyched-out reimag­i­na­tion of the Bea­tles’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Art rock su­per­group FANTÔMAS [5], one of Mike Pat­ton’s mul­ti­tudi­nous side-projects, fol­low with their first live show in nine years, and the ex­tent to which you might en­joy tonight’s set de­pends en­tirely on your ap­petite for eardrum-shat­ter­ing noise-rock ex­per­i­men­tal­ism. Cov­er­ing creepy scores from mu­sic and tele­vi­sion, each song fol­lows an in­creas­ingly pre­dictable pat­tern of screamy blast­beats fol­lowed by campy, old-timey singing. At one point Mike un­suc­cess­fully at­tempts to get a “Tool!” chant started and when his ef­forts fail to find pur­chase, he quips, “Al­right, then you’re go­ing to get more of this shit.”

Be­tween acts, the Crys­tal Method spin pul­sat­ing sets of rock and elec­tron­ica and when they kick off Def Lep­pard’s Rock Of Ages, the house just about loses its mind. The sun mer­ci­fully be­gins its de­scent as CLUTCH [8] take the stage and launch into an ab­so­lutely filthy ver­sion of Cru­cial Ve­loc­ity. Each pound­ing and ab­surdly hooky song beams a bright, flash­ing, neon re­minder of why Clutch are the best god­damned rock’n’roll band on the planet. Neil Fallon blows into a har­mon­ica and howls, “Hear that? That’s the ‘Fuck Yeah Ex­press!’” as they wrap up an ab­so­lutely bang­ing cam­paign with Elec­tric Worry and X-Ray Vi­sions.

Just af­ter 7:30, PRIMUS [8] take the stage to a siege of eu­phoric howls, pil­ing straight into Those Damned Blue-Col­lar Tweek­ers. Funky as hell and erupt­ing with ti­tanic metal cho­ruses, they sound more vi­tal than ever, led by Les Clay­pool and his ut­terly trans­fix­ing bass-play­ing vir­tu­os­ity. Stop­ping mid-song to ad­mire the ‘Twisted Taters’ sign at the back of the lawn, Les ded­i­cates the re­main­der of the opener to Tool and the potato ven­dor. Their elec­tric 45-minute set un­folds as a ta­pes­try of wildly per­cus­sive jam­ming, with Les slap­ping, pick­ing and strum­ming his way through fan faves like Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, Mr. Krin­kle and Jerry Was A Race Car Driver.

If you’ve ever seen a TOOL [9] show, then you know ex­actly what you’re go­ing to get and yet still, they al­ways seem to evis­cer­ate ex­pec­ta­tions. Tonight is no ex­cep­tion. Tak­ing the stage just af­ter 9pm, the band lead off with The Grudge. Decked out in fu­tur­is­tic RoboCop-style ar­mour, front­man May­nard

James Keenan shouts, “San Ber­doo! Hot balls!” be­fore lead­ing the band through Parabol, Parabola and a taut, grind­ing ver­sion of Schism. As usual, May­nard re­mains in his perch be­side the drumkit, fac­ing drum­mer Danny Carey and in­ter­spers­ing his vo­cals with a weird ar­ray of choppy poses that fall in some­where be­tween mim­ing, in­ter­pre­tive dance and karate. The band are tight and re­lent­lessly heavy as they plow through a ma­raud­ing two-hour, 15-song set that also in­cludes Aen­ema, a thun­der­ing, teased out Jambi and Forty-Six & 2. Am­pli­fy­ing the pris­matic psy­che­delic un­der­tones of the mu­sic, video mon­tages fea­tur­ing the meta­phys­i­cally rooted art of Alex Grey play out on 20-foot screens be­hind the band in a col­li­sion of the mun­dane, the pe­cu­liar and the deeply dis­turb­ing. Ini­ti­at­ing the en­cores, Danny’s pro­longed drum solo thrills with ev­ery roll of the toms and by the time the band reach closer Stink­fist, the crowd are sweat­ing and hoarse, though bay­ing for more. Re­cently, bassist Justin Chan­cel­lor re­vealed that Tool’s forth­com­ing al­bum is 90% done and yet with no re­lease date or de­tails in sight, new Tool mu­sic re­mains as re­mote as the first Star­bucks on Saturn. Life is in­deed hard for Tool fans but tonight is a re­minder that their faith is even­tu­ally re­warded.

Jones: Tool’s Adam bas­tard multi-tal­ented Clutch’s Tim: a Sult with a deadly bril­liant weapon May­nard knows his Prime Di­rec­tives: Serve the public trust, pro­tect the in­no­cent, up­hold the law, tor­ture us all with the wait for new mu­sic

Danny Carey de­liv­ers drum so­los you ac­tu­ally want to hear Tool trip with the lights… fan­tas­tic! Primus’s Les Clay­pool sails the seas of… spuds

Fuck Yeah he e Neil Fallon

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