Tool concert in Des Moines: Spectacular visuals, incredible sounds and tight musicianship
The Wells Fargo Arena was abuzz with electricity in anticipation of Tool’s upcoming performance Friday, their first show here in two-plus decades.
A few minutes past 9 p.m., Tool walked out to a packed house — and took their positions to a boisterous crowd. They proceeded to unleash the rumbling intro to the title track to the band's1996 “Ænema” album, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
One of the biggest gripes about a Tool concert is their lack of stage presence and crowd interaction. However, choosing not to ham it up, the band allowed their music to do their talking and provided plenty of eye candy by way of myriad of rotating lights and seven large, suspended vertical video screens behind the drum set, as well as additional see-through mylar screens that dropped and raised at the front of the stage, projecting various psychedelic animations.
Bassist Justin Chancellor flanked at stage left and guitarist Adam Jones rarely strayed from their respective spots, while vocalist Maynard James Keenan was planted at the side of Danny Carey’s drum riser mostly ensconced in darkness.
Every member performed with flawless, surgeon-like precision, especially Carey and his incredible endurance behind his double-kick drum set. Keenan’s characteristic voice sliced through the searing instrumentation.
The mix was superb, allowing every instrument to shine clearly while Keenan’s voice sounded fantastic, booming vibrantly throughout the venue.
Follow-up track “The Pot’s" pulsating basslines and hypnotic guitar melodies kept the crowd mesmerized. The one-two punch of “Parabol/Parabola” from 2001’s “Lateralus” crept up next, providing decent dynamics to the set with its anticipated build-up intro before exploding into a rhythmic frenzy of thunderous polyrhythmic drum patterns and wailing guitar melodies.
Two new Tool tracks — “Descending” and “Invincible” — were also introduced, which the band began adding to their setlist at the start of its current U.S. tour. Both songs have been circulating online and have been well-received, proving to be perfect inclusions to Tool’s catalog of epic tracks, clocking in at over 12 minutes each. Both tracks will most likely appear on the new Tool record, which was recently announced to be on August 30.
After a thrilling rendition of “Schism,” also from “Lateralus,” Keenan addressed the Des Moines crowd by stating that Iowa is one of his favorite states, which of course received an enormous response. “Intolerance” received a raucous singalong from the crowd, while “Jambi” included a killer talk-box solo from Jones.
Closing out the set was the ferocious “Forty-Six & 2,” which concluded with a huge, climactic finale to the delight of the raucous crowd.
Following a 12-minute intermission leading to its encore, Carey was alone on stage for an enthusiastic drum solo by combining eerie electronic samples with acoustic tribal patterns. Usually drum solos are reserved for bathroom or beer breaks, but the crowd was totally into it.
All night the crowd had been told not to record the show, and security tightly enforced the mesaure. But before launching into the thunderous groove-laden “Stinkfist," Keenen declared that the Des Moines audience had been good, for security to freely let the crowd flip out their phones for their closing number —sending the crowd into a frenzy at its conclusion.
As the stage lights went up, the band stepped out from their respective spots and showed the crowd their appreciation to rapturous cheers, ending a superb two-hour show that included spectacular visuals, incredible sounds and tight musicianship.