Next up on the Rock n Roller Tour Across America is Tool at the Tacoma Dome in Washington. I am Michele and I am Robert, and we are the Rock n Coaster’s podcast, where we share our love of music and roller coasters on epic trips across the country.
[Michele] This was the first concert of 2022 and Robert and I headed down to Seattle from Anchorage for a quick out and back trip, meaning we fly down the day of the show and fly back the next. We arrived early and rented a car and checked in to our favorite hotel by the airport, the Hilton Garden Inn. It always helps to be a Hilton Honors Gold member as they allow early check-ins and even free snacks.
Around three o’clock we headed south on I-5 in the pouring rain and it took forever to find decent parking. We found a spot in a garage a few blocks away from the Dome and grabbed dinner at a small diner that was packed with ‘new’ Kraken fans watching the game on every TV in the joint. It is great to see how much Seattle and the Pacific Northwest has come to embrace the new NHL team and we are looking forward to catching some games too. In fact, we are on the season tickets waiting list. Why does all this matter on a rock concert podcast? Well…being a part of the waiting list, it allows us access to pre-sales to all of the concerts, shows and events at the new Climate Pledge arena. We have already scored great seats to the Slipknot show and others.
[Robert] After dinner we headed over to the venue and stood in the rain for what seemed like an hour while people tried to figure out what was going on with the vaccination cards and the security screens. We arrived about an hour before the opening band and had great seats, front stage center in the section above the floor. These are always our choice of seats when we are attending a show inside a venue and will pay extra for them if they are available. The Tacoma Dome is ancient. I remember seeing Metallica here way back in the day, in 1989 or 90 and it was old then. This place is better suited for rodeos and monster truck bashes but hey, let’s see how it goes.
Up first is Blonde Redhead
[Michele] I don’t know anything about this band and it was not my favorite but I could see why they were on the bill. Blonde Redhead is an American alternative rock band composed of Kazu Makino (vocals, keys/rhythm guitar) and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace (drums/keys and lead guitar/bass/keys/vocals, respectively) that formed in New York City in 1993. The band’s earliest albums were noted for their noise rock influences, though their sound evolved by the early 2000s with the releases of Misery is a Butterfly (2004) and 23 (2007), which both incorporated elements of dream pop, shoegaze and other genres. They have released nine regular studio albums and have toured internationally. What is noise rock and shoegaze you may ask?
Noise music is a genre of music that is characterized by the expressive use of noise within a musical context. This type of music tends to challenge the distinction that is made in conventional musical practices between musical and non-musical sound. Shoegaze is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock characterized by its ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. Well…sort of like TOOL but not exactly…
They played for about a half an hour and included, Falling Man, Spring, and by Summer, Fall and 23.
Tool in Tacoma
[Robert] Tool ranks up there in my Top 5 bands of all time. I have tried for years to get Michele “into Tool,” and mostly it has been unsuccessful. During lockdown, we even went down the Tool rabbit hole and learned how Tool, and particularly Keenan is obsessed with numbers, the after-life, mysticism, and more. If you are a Tool fan, this is nothing new, but I love this stuff.
I was excited to see the tickets pop up on the Tool fan page and grabbed them the first day. This is the second leg of the Fear Inoculum tour that was cut short in early 2020 when the pandemic hit and the show in Salt Lake City was probably the best concert experience I have ever been to. I went to that show with my buddy Nate and his friend, and it will be something that I measure every show from now on. It was simply amazing.
I know it would be really tough to compare a show like Salt Lake to this one in an old, drafty barn but we will see…
[Michele] So, kids, who is this band Tool?
Tool is an American progressive metal band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1990, the group’s line-up has included drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan. Since 1995, Justin Chancellor has been the band’s bassist, replacing their original bassist Paul D’Amour. Tool has won three Grammy Awards, performed worldwide tours, and produced albums topping the charts in several countries. Here’s a fun fact: Tool was our daughter, Nicole’s first concert that she attended on her 12thbirthday with Robert. Two things she always talks about, why did the lead singer do the whole show in his underwear and that some nice people standing next to her bought her dinner right before the show.
Tool is as earnest a band as the world has ever known. Their music is heavy, droning, and precise. Their lyrics are dark, brooding, and serious. Speaking of serious, if you ARE a Tool fan you know that Maynard takes his privacy seriously and the band had the requisite warning signs, “No pictures or recordings allowed from cell phones.” The alert was reiterated over the loudspeakers, and ushers rushed to enforce the bylaw, scolding anyone whose camera was pointed at the stage. But the funny thing was this show was one of the most visually stunning arena spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. If ever there was a concert worthy of a visual keepsake or an Instagram story, this was the one. We will talk about this more in a bit…
[Robert] Promptly at 8:45, the quartet took the stage, cocooned by a 50-foot high translucent curtain. The Eastern-influenced instrumentation of “Fear Inoculum” started with guitarist Adam Jones at stage left, bassist Justin Chancellor stage right, and drummer Danny Carey keeping the beat with his drum set on a riser in the center. Projections of a giant multi-armed man rotated around the curtain and simultaneously on the backdrop. Eventually, mohawked vocalist Maynard James Keenan made his distinctive voice known, by which time the trip had begun. Shifting visuals that made the band appear to be in the middle of a desert island fluctuated to lava flowing and then into colored images swirling into the ether. The visuals, coupled with the grooves of the music, had the effect of making you wonder what exactly was in that cup you just drank from.
[Michele] “Tacoma, Washington! Are you sure you’re ready for this shit?” Maynard asked.
The crowd, mostly dressed in black of course, certainly was. They pulsed their fists into the sky, they practiced their air drumming skills, and when Tool played their most popular song of the set, “The Pot,” they sang along to every single word, “You must have been high.”
I’m not sure if it was energy pent up from quarantine, but it should be emphasized how tremendous the crowd was. This was not the stereotypical laissez-faire Tacoma audience the stepbrother of Seattle has earned a reputation for. Beforehand, I wondered how the response to art-rock openers Blonde Redhead would be. They are as barebones as Tool is excessive. But the early-arriving audience was attentive and enthusiastic as Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace took turns singing out their sonic noisy lullabies.
While they were appreciative and respectful toward Blonde Redhead, the fans went nuts for all two-plus hours of Tool. As the main set drew to a close, the band didn’t opt for the nonsense ritual of disappearing and making everyone chant “Encore!” Instead, a digital clock counted down from 12 minutes. After the break, Carey took to his drums for his solo instrumental “Chocolate Chip Trip,” which let him show off skills reminiscent of Neil Peart’s antics with Tool’s musical forefathers Rush. Here’s another fun fact: Did you know that Carey called his drum solo chocolate chip trip on the album because at the studio where they were recording, a lady was constantly baking chocolate chip cookies for them, and by the time the tracks were laid Cary said it was all a strange chocolate chip trip…
Keenan spoke to the crowd for the second time in the evening and allowed the cameras to come out. “You can film the last song, but I’m going to cover some ground rules. Turn your fucking lights off, you amateur dipshits. You can figure it out. If you can’t, ask your phone — it’s a smartphone.”
And after that attempt at levity, Tool closed the night with “Invincible,” a song about the drudgery of making it through life.
[Robert] I fully believe Jones, Cary, and Chancellor are the best musicians today. Their attention to their craft is on a whole other level. Their music moves you in a way that no other band can. All fans know of Maynard’s crazy quirks and idiosyncrasies, but in the end, it is all worth it. Who cares if we had to wait more than a decade for a new album by these guys? Seeing these guys perform to near perfection on the record and live was worth every last second. I remember seeing these guys live for the first time way back in the day at Lollapalooza and then with my daughter for her first show. I just hope that after this experience, Michele will agree that this is the greatest live band in the world.
Michele, do you agree?
We hope you like the format of the new show. This is how we intend to cover events in the future on the podcast. We want to share our thoughts, our experiences, places to eat, and places to see as you hit up your favorite rock shows and theme parks across America.
Oh, one last thing, did you know the single best thing you can do for our show is to tell your family and friends how to listen, who knows they might just become a rabid listener just like you. And hey if you want to show the love, head over to Patreon.com/firstpawmedia and become a patron.
Set List for Tool
Here is the set list for the Tool show in Tacoma, Washington on January 11, 2022.
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