Jung at heart

Tool at the Orpheum
By JAMES PARKER  |  May 25, 2006


Tool are playing “Stinkfist,” and Maynard Keenan is channeling Robert Duvall: the bare chest, the mirror shades, the ten-gallon hat, the rigid insane confidence. Standing in front of the blossoming AV screens he is Col. Kilgore on the beach in Apocalypse Now, an apparition of stolid derangement, now and again accenting a particularly colossal time-change with a slow-motion karate kick. Mmmmm. He loves the smell of the Orpheum in the evening. Smells like . . . wet dogs.

No offense to the fellow spotted outside in the rain, peeling hundred-dollar bills into the palm of a drooling scalper; or to the first ten rows inside, roaring hosannas for an hour before the band came on; or to the girl in front of me, whose ecstatically tossed hair was thrashing my nose in shampoo-scented flourishes all through the show; but Tool’s performance Sunday night at the Orpheum was ­ — on the Tool scale ­ — only about a B plus. It’s no one’s fault, they played their asses off, but Tool are now operating at such a level of excellence that anything less than forked lightning up the spinal column registers as an anti-climax. As a friend put it to me afterwards: “I was waiting all night for that Tool note, that moment, that thing that only they can hit, and it just . . . didn’t happen.”

So ­just your average mindblow, then. Guitarist Adam Jones, as long and forlorn in aspect as an El Greco painting, doesn’t move. Keenan moves only minimally ­— a serpentine shift of the neck or hips, to realign the energy around him. He takes off his hat and teases up his mohawk into little plumes. Justin Chancellor, spraying weepy noises from his bass like Bootsy Collins in mourning, shoots searching, unrequited gazes at drummer Danny Carey. And Carey . . . bloody hell. Seated on his drum stool in his red-and-blue Clippers shirt, he is almost as tall as Keenan, who stands next to him on the riser. He’s not the most soulful of super-duper drummers; he’s not, say, John Bonham, identifiable by the simple lilt of his hi-hat; but for invention, power, and sheer octopoidal proficiency he cannot at this moment be touched.

The LSD psychosis suite from the new record 10,000 Days was played in full: the shimmering, howling instrumental “Lost Keys” followed by the electrified blurt of “Rosetta Stoned,” with Keenan gibbering into a CB mike­: “Holy fucking shit! Holy fucking shit!” Holy fucking shit is right: it seems almost banal, at this point, to observe that Tool are a platinum-selling, nation-conquering band who preach an antinomian filth-gospel of darkness and revelation. No cheesy decadence here, no posturing, just 2,800 people bellowing “My shadow! Change is coming through my shadow!” Take that, Carl Jung.
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