Published Jan 26, 2012Security was tight at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, with long lines of black-clad, bleary-eyed people snaking around the building in surly clumps. Intronaut were already well into their lean 30-minute set while people streamed into the stadium, finding their seats and avoiding security to clandestinely smoke.
While Intronaut are certainly heavy, their particular take on progressive, replete with complex polyrhythms and harmonies, was stretched to its aesthetic limit in the cavernous space. The music that usually twines about the listener like muscular tentacles brushed the audience almost gently, like curling tendrils, made somehow delicate. They finished their set with the powerful, urgent "Any Port," holding their own in front of an immense and distracted crowd. The quality of their performance, as well as their ability to adapt and fill the space, was impressive.
Tool are known for their dark, surreal imagery and visually intense live shows, and it came as no surprise that their stage set-up included four immense screens placed at angles above the stage, as well as a sprawling lit-up backdrop. Excitement built, rippling through the audience like a live and shivering thing as the lights went down and the sound of a massive mechanical heartbeat began to throb through the ACC, heralding the arrival of the band on stage.
As the pulsing tone gradually resolved itself into the opening riff of "Hooker with a Penis," eerie purple and green lights combined with stark white spots illuminated Danny Carey (drums), Adam Jones (guitar) and Justin Chancellor (bass). Frontman Maynard James Keenan hung back, as he often does in live performances, and remained for the most part unlit. However, the illuminated backdrop behind him made his lean body stand out like the back outline of a bare tree against a stormy sky, causing his writhing movements to become even more eerie and alien as he sang.
Tool's live charisma cannot be overstated. The band members play together as though each is an individual limb in a larger body, with grace and a wordless connection. The images projected as the band played drew heavily from their music videos, an amalgam of gothic horror and morphing, psychedelic symbols. They played a blistering, spine-tingling rendition of "Schism" that the audience adored, and their performance of "Forty-Six & 2" was transcendent.
But the highlight of the night was unquestionably when, during "Lateralus," Maynard announced that he needed a break, and invited who appeared to be Danny Walker, the drummer from Intronaut, to join Tool on stage. It was only then that the audience noticed a smaller drum kit affixed to the side of Carey's rig. The ensuing drum battle was positively mythic, the precise violence and cacophony resolving itself into a deep, primal groove that seemed to unite every breath and heartbeat in the room before shattering apart again.
After finishing the night with "Ǽnema," there was no encore for the audience at the ACC. The set simply ended with riotous applause, and then the lights went on, cold and unforgiving. It seemed that the entire audience stumbled outside and immediately it up a cigarette for comfort, still reeling from the experience of the show.
To see Exclaim!'s Tool photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here.