TOOL

Royal Arena, Copenhagen - 2022

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Few bands are hyped as much as TOOL, and it’s no surprise that they’ve been the most requested band for Copenhell, where they finally had their debut back in 2019.
That was just shortly before their latest album, Fear Inoculum, hit the streets. Everyone was of course hoping for a return with a regular tour as well, but then covid hit.
It’s now 2022, nobody cares about diseases anymore, and TOOL is finally back on the road!
After completing a full US tour, the band moved east to Europe, and their very first show took place in Royal Arena, Copenhagen.

“Copenhagen! (shouts) Copenhagen! (louder shouts) Eh, work on it.”
- Maynard James Keenan (vocals)


TOOL had brought the same support band with them, as they had used on their US tour, Brass Against. It was my first encounter with this band, and I’d say it was a good one. Looking away from it feeling a bit odd to have a pure cover band with them, there was so much joy to be found in their performance, that I couldn’t help but be swept along. And they played a couple of TOOL covers, which almost made this into a bonus show played before the real one. More TOOL songs, more fun for us, right?

When it was time for TOOL to go on, the stage had transformed, and there was a curtain of ribbons in front of the stage. Open enough to see through, but still dense enough to use as a screen for the band’s lavish video productions. A monstrously large figure with several arms and eyes faded into vision, as Litanie Contre La Peur played over the speakers as an intro song. There wasn’t much light on the stage, but just enough to let us see when the musicians entered and got in position, unsurprisingly greeted by loud cheers.
The band picked up directly from the intro, and continued on with the title track of the latest album. Keenan didn’t show up until it was time for the vocals, and even then he was standing on an unlit platform in the back, next to the impressively massive drumkit of Adam Chandler. There’s of course nothing new in this, I’m just trying to paint a visual picture of what we were seeing (in case you missed looking at the photos, you know).

After Fear Inoculum, the band went straight for a good selection of classics, starting out with Opiate. This was the one difference and surprise I noticed in the set, as they had played Sober on the US leg of the tour in this spot. Both are awesome tracks though, and Opiate really managed to create a creepy and uncomfortable vibe (in a good way, mind you), well backed by the continuing video show.
The set held one other surprise, and that was to contrary to popular style, the band didn’t go out on a set of hits, but instead played three songs from Fear Inoculum after the intermission. Not that TOOL is a band to follow traditions, and finishing up with Chocolate Chip Trip, Culling Voices, and Invincible worked just fine, but I’m also a simple man, I enjoy ending the party on a large sing along cavalcade.
And let’s touch briefly on that intermission, which to me was the only low point of the show. Sure, practically all bands have a short break, where they pretend to end the show, in order to be applauded back on for a few more songs. TOOL was at least respectful enough to acknowledge that they were coming back, by having a huge timer counting down, but did the pause really need to be so long? And did it need to be with fully turned on lights, and in complete silence? If you want a longer break in your set, look at what Roger Waters does - he has some nice visuals to look at, and music playing, so there’s something to occupy us.

But the important parts here were after all the time the band spent on stage, not off it, and the time spent on stage could not have been spent any better. TOOL’s not a bundle of energy, you’re not going to see hardcore style jumping and running here (which would look pretty damned weird to the music anyway), but there is such a clear connection to the music, an unmistakable feeling of presence in the moment. And I love how Justin Chancellor gets his groove on as soon as the show starts going.
There was also a nice little bit where the whole band went to the front of the stage and sat down on some folding chairs while playing a calmer piece. At this point, the strings in front of the stage had been pulled away, and it was a sweet little moment of closeness, before the rocking commenced again.
Regarding the rocking, we should remember that this was a seated concert, one with an inordinately strict no camera policy, so it was a bit interesting to hear Keenan comment going into Invincible, the last song of the night, that he didn’t get why we were all just sitting there, instead of getting up and rocking with the band. This was, after all, “a Copenhagen show, not a Maynard show”. He was of course cracking a little joke, but it was nice to finally get some action from the audience as well. Invincible was also the one song where people were allowed to take their phones out to film and take photos, so all of a sudden the hitherto dark hall was lit by hundreds of little phone displays, kinda making me miss the no camera rule to be perfectly honest.

TOOL didn’t give us the type of show we’re used to, but then again, they’re not like every other band, are they? What we did get was a visual and an auditory feast, a visceral experience that got under the skin and stayed in our bodies long after the last notes had rung out, and the band had left the stage. This was so absolutely worth waiting for, but c’mon, let’s cross our fingers that we won’t have to wait quite so long for another visit, ok?

Setlist:

Litanie Contre La Peur
Fear Inoculum
Opiate
The Pot
Pushit
Pneuma
The Grudge
Right In Two
Descending
Hooker With A Penis
Intermission
Chocolate Chip Trip
Culling Voices
Invincible

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