LastNight: Tool at Bill Graham Civic Includes Jello Biafra, Primus
(Maynard, the newest Blue Man)
BETTER THAN: Meeting Cthulhu
DOWNLOAD: Some Tool samples.
By Ezra Gale
Suppose you're a musician, alone in your bedroom with your guitar and your metronome and your blacklight Black Sabbath poster that lights up the whites of Ozzy's eyes every time you close your door and turn the main light off and sit on the bed and run through all the scales in Mel Bay's big spiral instruction book: Lydian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and on and on. And suppose that just when you've set your metronome to click 15 or 11 times and then repeat itself you drop some acid, and just then you're visited by a scaly, triceratops-looking space alien, who points one slimy pod at you and telepathically lets you know he (or it) will visit again in twenty years and blow your brains out if you haven't formed a band that sells out arenas by playing oblique, epically long art-metal songs with no discernable choruses and no sections in 4/4 time, like the rest of the Radio Friendly Unit Shifting music industry.
You'd probably think, Well, goddamn, I'm screwed, aren't I?
And you'd be right, because you're not Tool, the Los Angeles-based (for proof just check out the full-on Lakers uniform worn by drummer Danny Carey at the Bill Graham Civic Tuesday night) quartet that has sold a bazillion records and concert tickets by somehow marrying heady introspection with a pummelling sledgehammer attack that's enough to scare off everyone who has ever owned a single Putomayo compilation, ever.
If you were, you'd have figured out how to sell out the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco in a couple seconds or so, leaving your fans to take desperate measures such as promising show reviews just to get in the door, and you'd do it all without compromising a lick -- unloading a jaw-droppingly heavy set of Big Loud Rock that shifts and sways and grooves in time signatures more at home in Bulgaria than on Market Street. You'd get away with taunting the crowd before you even really started, as singer Maynard James Keenan did from his unlit perch at the back of the stage -- “San Francisco ... there's politically correct and then there's just stupid!” -- because you knew you had a set list ready to go that would floor every single concertgoer there, packed with such slabs of screeching prog-metal as “Schism” (from Lateralus), with a pounding sing-along in 13/8 time, and “Intention” (from 10,000 Days), which levels everything in its path for a full thirteen minutes or so.
And then, just maybe because you can, and because what the fuck, why not, it's San Francisco, you'd invite Jello Biafra up to the stage to tear through the Dead Kennedys' “Holiday in Cambodia.” Then you'd drag up Tim Alexander from Primus and the drummer from your opening band Trans Am for a three-way drum battle on the rolling 6/4 groove of “Lateralus.”
And when it was all over, and the lasers had stopped rolling over the crowd and the video screens that had pumped out layer after layer of oblique psychedellia behind you had finally gone blank, you'd wave to the crowd and throw your drumsticks into the second deck and taunt the peace-and-love hippies of San Francisco one last time (“Don't worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this music”), and you'd disappear behind the stage and into your waiting tour bus while the audience begs and screams for more.
But you're not Tool, so forget about it. Throw away your metronome and start thinking about how you're going to spend the next twenty years, 'cause when Mr. Stegasaurus comes back, you're toast.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Too much MDA as a child.
PERSONAL BIAS: I hate anything in 4/4
RANDOM DETAIL: Laser lights are back
BY THE WAY: Tool hits up L.A. then Idaho next.