Tool - Altice Arena - Lisbon
WRITTEN BY NICK SPOONER
When the European dates for progressive metal titans, Tool, were announced towards the end of last year, there wasn't so much a blast of excitement on social media than a total meltdown. Not only were there a range of shows to be played across Europe, but also a first appearance in the UK for 12 years, bestowing extra significance on a Sunday at Download already featuring the closing act of Slayer's relationship with the UK. Tickets for arena performances across Europe sold out in a matter of moments, with passes for the 17,000 capacity Ziggo Dome arena in Amsterdam shifting faster than you could say "Lateralus". Prague, Berlin and others followed suit, with people taking to Twitter to collectively lose their shit at the prospect of seeing unarguably one of the most unique, enigmatic and fabled acts in the history of heavy music. We decided to head for the 20,000 capacity Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal (this reviewer decided to head there with some pals as well as Amsterdam because, despite cries of dismay from the bank balance, well, it's fucking Tool), along with a host of others from across Europe apparently.
Arriving in Lisbon a few days before the show in order to trade British drizzle for some Portuguese sunshine, it quickly became clear that many others had had the same astute plan. Everywhere one went, people in metal shirts had descended on the city, and by the second day of conversations with fans from around Europe beginning with "are you heading to Tool on Tuesday?", it was apparent that this wasn't just any show. This was a pilgrimage. Drinking Sagres with fans from Spain, UK, France and Ukraine in the days beforehand gave an extra significance to the show, emphasising the giant sense of inter-connectivity that fans of Tool often experience.
Despite the gargantuan proportions of the Altice Arena, such is the calibre of a Tool live show, attendees would never feel as though they were miles away from the action. And, as the house lights fell to black, the breathy moments of Aenema filled the auditorium and the first of close to two hours worth of psychedelic visuals spilled across the screens behind the stage, Tool grabbed each on-looker and dragged them into the sort of all-encompassing performance that only Tool can create.
For many in the venue this would have been the first opportunity to see Tool for many years, possibly ever. And although the band's live show is regularly singled out as being without parallel, there truly is nothing that can prepare you properly for what this show is like. Here, cloaked in shadow, saying nothing between songs and just allowing wave after wave of some of the best music created by mankind to wash over a crowd cherishing and revering every second, accompanied by an otherworldly lights and visual show accentuated the transcendental nature of another extraordinary Tool performance.
There's no real point in breaking down this set into highlights when every nanosecond of it was sheer perfection. Nevertheless, it's worth spotlighting a few key moments: the outright power of Forty Six & Two, the swirling majesty of Jambi, the beauty of Parabol (accompanied by Northern Lights style lighting effects) into a gripping Parabola, a fist-pumping rendition of Intolerance and an agonising dive into Schism. That said, with August 30th fast approaching and Tool fans hyperventilating at the prospect of new recorded output, it would be remiss not to mention that the two new tracks, Descending and Invincible, sound immense. It takes some nerve to air nearly 25 minutes of totally unheard music in a set, and yet such is the quality of these two tracks, they felt as though they went by in a quarter of the time. In particular, the rhythmical interplay around a Danny Carey stomp towards the end of Invincible nearly brought the roof in. Get excited.
Each member of Tool never dipped below a 10 in Lisbon. Maynard, customarily hidden in darkness at the back of the stage, gave a performance that reminded everyone why he is one of the best vocalists in music. His mix of haunting, occasionally angelic, cleans and his trademark yell/scream combining with Jones and Chancellor's iconic riffs and bass parts to twirl and snake into every corner of the Altice Arena. And behind them, Danny Carey, battering his drum kit like his life depended on it, delivered a performance which genuinely took the breath away.
As the closing moments of Stinkfist came and went and the band approached the front of the stage to be greeted by a cheer of appreciation from the crowd almost as loud as the band themselves had been, those in attendance were reminded why there will never be another band like Tool. This is a band for whom everyone ran out of superlatives many, many years ago.