Tool Served Up a Feast for the Ears and Eyes at FTX Arena

Photo by Travis Shinn
Tool is as earnest a band as the world has ever known. Their music is heavy, droning, and precise. Their lyrics are dark, brooding, and serious. But the signs plastered all over FTX Arena Thursday night left me wondering if the California rockers had a secret sense of humor — or, at the very least, a sense of irony.

These signs warned, "No pictures or recordings allowed from cell phones." The alert was reiterated over the loudspeakers, and ushers rushed to enforce the bylaw, scolding anyone whose camera was pointed at the stage. But the funny thing was this show was one of the most visually stunning arena spectacles I've ever witnessed. If ever there was a concert worthy of a visual keepsake or an Instagram story, this was the one.

Promptly at 8:45, the quartet took the stage, cocooned by a 50-foot high translucent curtain. The Eastern-influenced instrumentation of "Fear Inoculum" started with guitarist Adam Jones at stage left, bassist Justin Chancellor stage right, and drummer Danny Carey keeping the beat with his drum set on a riser in the center. Projections of a giant multi-armed man rotated around the curtain and simultaneously on the backdrop. Eventually, mohawked vocalist Maynard James Keenan made his distinctive voice known, by which time the trip had begun. Shifting visuals that made the band appear to be in the middle of a desert island fluctuated to lava flowing and then into colored images swirling into the ether. The visuals, coupled with the grooves of the music, had the effect of making you wonder what exactly was in that cup you just drank from.

"Miami! Are you sure you're ready for this shit?" Keenan asked.

The crowd, mostly dressed in black, certainly was. They pulsed their fists into the sky, they practiced their air drumming skills, and when Tool played their most popular song of the set, "The Pot," they sang along to every single word, "You must have been high."

I'm not sure if it was energy pent up from quarantine, but it should be emphasized how tremendous the crowd was. This was not the stereotypical laissez-faire audience our city has earned a reputation for. Beforehand, I wondered how the response for art-rock openers Blonde Redhead would be. They are as barebones as Tool is excessive. But the early-arriving audience was attentive and enthusiastic as Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace took turns singing out their sonic dreamscape lullabies.

While they were appreciative and respectful toward Blonde Redhead, the fans went nuts for all two-plus hours of Tool. As the main set drew to a close, the band didn't opt for the nonsense ritual of disappearing and making everyone chant "Encore!" Instead, a digital clock counted down from 12 minutes. After the break, Carey took to his drums for his solo instrumental "Chocolate Chip Trip," which let him show off skills reminiscent of Neil Peart's antics with Tool's musical forefathers Rush.

Then all four members sat in chairs placed at the front of the stage. With everyone but Keenan strumming a guitar, they performed their most ballad-adjacent tune, "Culling Voices."

There was time for one more song before the 11 p.m. cutoff. Keenan spoke to the crowd for the second time in the evening and allowed the cameras to come out. "You can film the last song, but I'm going to cover some ground rules. Turn your fucking lights off, you amateur dipshits. You can figure it out. If you can't, ask your phone — it's a smartphone."

And after that attempt at levity, Tool closed the night with "Invincible," a song about the drudgery of making it through life.

Hey, you got one joke. If you want to end the night with something light, the Tool experience might not be for you.

- "Fear Inoculum"
- "Opiate"
- "The Pot"
- "Pushit"
- "Pneuma"
- "The Grudge"
- "Eon Blue Apocalypse"
- "The Patient"
- "Descending"
- "Hooker With a Penis"

- "Chocolate Chip Trip"
- "Culling Voices"
- "Invincible"