Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Concert Review: Tool.

One might not expect a Tool concert to provide a Biblical object lesson. But last night at Staples Center, it did.

After a couple disciples asked Jesus to grant them the glory of sitting on his right and left in heaven, he admonished them:

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.

“But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be [servant] of all.” (Mark 10:42-44; NASB.)

This passage richly sets forth the powerful concept of servant leadership.

Maynard James Keenan (“Maynard”) amply demonstrated the counterintuitive and countercultural leadership style last night.

Regarded as the indubitable leader of Tool, he did not lord it over the crowd or his bandmates. To the contrary, Maynard thumbed his nose at rock-star conventions by almost hiding at the back of the stage shrouded in shadows and mystery. Even though the concert employed video screens, not once did they ever show Maynard’s face. In fact, despite two hours on stage, no spotlight ever highlighted his presence or countenance. As a result, the crowd—even in the front rows—was left to guess what he actually looked like.

I think the self-sacrifice or subjugation was intentional. The musicianship of the group was the focus as the lead guitarist and bassist were located at the front. The sound was plenty loud, but also captured the lyrics--except for the first song--and the precision of the instrumentation.

The group’s set up was unconventional. They artfully used the stage—a glossy substance much like a dry erase board, as a screen which reflected or projected the images flashed on it. There were no larger or high-rising screens behind the group.

The set list drew heavily from Tool's latest, 10,000 Days. Older material was almost nonexistent. That absence was not a problem as the new record has been a huge seller and contains some very strong material, especially “Vicarious.”

Two other observations about the unconventionality of the experience. Before the encore, the band did not leave the stage. Maynard just lay on his back. Then, at the appropriate time, they simply got up and took their positions to perform the encore. Second, the roadies were dressed in lab coats as if doctors or research scientists.

In sum, a moving aural and visual experience. Tool is probably the most distinguished group of its genre, and is working at the top of its craft.

UPDATE: Here's a review of Tool's May 3, 2007, concert in San Diego, California: