TOOL: LIVE 2022

LONDON O2 ARENA: MAY 10TH, 2022. TOOOOOOOL….. CAN THEY LIVE UP TO THE EXCITEMENT IN YOUR TOOL-NERD MIND?

A shade after 8:30, they’re on. Fear Inoculum is up first, a gently building Toolscape to set the scene and IT’S HAPPENING, it’s actually bloody happening. Then it’s a three-decade rewind to Sober, which is huge but with this unexpected diversion:

“….happy birthday dear Danny … happy birthday to you.”

Woven seamlessly into Sober’s bleak spell is Maynard’s singalong for the big fella Carey on the drums.

“Old as fuck. It could be your last.”

A couple more waspy barbs and a quick crowd singalong later, we’re back into Sober’s dark underbelly where Adam Jones’s original video plays out on the colossal backdrop. This is followed by Undertow and Pushit. Is this a start or what? The playing’s as meticulous, forceful and exceptional as the records so there’s pretty much no point describing it. Every riff, break, drop, surge, polyrhythm, tempo shift or whatever it is that knocks you out when you play the albums is right there.

Which leads to this: if the music’s beyond question (and it is), what’s the point of a review?

It’s to somehow share the spectacle – because that’s what this turns out to be. It IS a spectacle. Lasers and lights and the huge backdrop’s never-ending liquid flow of visuals sucking you into a psychedelic odyssey of infinite godheads, third eyes, altered states and more make for a meticulously staged art show, though it’s very much Tool art. Like their album packaging, the attention to detail is exquisite. And a silhouetted, mohawked Keenan on the risers either side of the drums, crouching and swaying like a predatory sex gimp, adds to the illusion. Total integration, full immersion.

Tool play Invincible
Tool trip

Pneuma and Right in Two maintain the prolonged ecstatic hit but if there’s a lull (sorry, don’t shoot), it’s 7empest. Felt a bit of energy leak away in its second half. Having played it again several times since the show, I wonder why I thought that – still sounds every inch the Tool epic, still works as a Fear Inoculum finale. Maybe it’s more an album experience than a live thruster, but Fear Inoculum veers a little that way anyway. Refined and reflective.

But that’s just a minor plateau in 2.5 half hours. The highs are harder to pick because of the ridiculous levels sustained throughout. The Grudge – slightly faster than on record? – is one, as is Aenima’s venomous Hooker With A Penis. Tool still hit hard. And Keenan revelled in that one.

A 10-minute breather (with on-screen clock counting down the minutes, great idea) leads to an encore: Chocolate Chip Trip, Culling Voices (Tool-on-stools acoustic intro) and a storming, poignant Invincible to finish.

It’s a sign of just how good a gig is that the absence of some of your mostest specialest tunes (Jambi Aenima Schism etc etc etc) doesn’t matter one fucking jot. With volume and visuals like these, Tool’s already exceptional music is ultra enhanced. It’s the full trip. We know the guys on stage are regular, if ridiculously gifted, mortals breathing air and blowing snot like the rest of us. But it’s more fun to pretend they’re not. Not tonight, not on that stage. Tonight, they’re aliens, riding a hallucinogenic vortex and brainwashing us with musical divinity.

And if that sounds over the top, so what? If you were there, you know. If you get Tool, you know. London, the O2: a gig for all time.

DELVING: TUNE OF THE MONTH

MAY REWIND: JOHN PAUL JONES ON A REBUILD OF LED ZEP’S LEVEE.

Been a while since we did a little Rewind (hello again! Anyone there? No? OK…. ) so a couple of these tracks are merely quite new instead of shiny sparkly new.

Like that matters. Let’s dig.

DELVING Delving

Much like Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and the daren’t-look-it-up Cock and Ball Torture (thanks to Dan or Danny’s list at rateyourmusic.com for that gem), Delving have done a song named after themselves. Nice. Delving’s the solo project of Nick DiSalvo from Elder. Haven’t heard Elder either till now, which is probably a chunky oversight, but if they’re half as awesome as the track Delving by the band Delving then they’re going on the Must Check list because this is everything you need from a guitar instrumental IF …heavy prog-tinged rock shakes your beans. You get a bit of taut, non-quirk Tortoise pushing hypnotic rhythms on repeat and some Porcupine Tree clean/heavy duality. But with fatter, groovier wheels.

That would probably be enough but Delving says no. How about a subtle but crushing post-metal drop near the end??? ‘kin ‘ell, YES. Shades of Isis, just for a sec. Monu-bloody-mental and highly addictive, check Delving here.

AQUARIAN – Death, Taxes and Hanger

Drum’ n’ bass backbone. Airy textures. High-speed motion. Fierce yet uplifting. Yep, I have no musical references to write about this stuff, but Death, Taxes and Hanger is a hell of a ride and if you’re of a certain vintage it’ll take you right back to 1997. Maybe. Aquarian himself, when he introduced the track to Mary Anne Hobbs, said: “Death, Taxes and Hanger is probably what you could consider atmospheric drum ‘n’ bass but with a bit of cheeky 90s tech step breakdown stuffed in for good measure … and classic progressive classic trance probably imprinted itself on there too.” There you go.

PLAYING FOR CHANGE – When The Levee Breaks

Change of pace now with a Zep-faithful rendition by a global cast of many for the Playing for Change Foundation, which aims ‘to connect the world through music’. Watch it and feel the optimism: music, beauty and good vibrations pour out of every performer on this clip. It transcends borders. And the bass being in the originator’s hands – a lean, lithe John Paul Jones – is the Levee cake’s icing as you can see.

Anything else? Downtuned nu-metal filth adds extra drag to the crawling beats of Tether by SCALPING. Dense subway darkness and pulsing momentum make strange euphoria in War Priests by The Allegorist.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

KILLING JOKE : LIVE 2022

LOVE. WAR. BECAUSE. VIRUS. Those are the first four tracks: Love Like Blood, Wardance, The Fall of Because, I Am The Virus. Funny how random words can sound timely.

Then again, Killing Joke track titles always do, and 2022 seems to be exactly the right time to see them. War, COVID, climate, hyper communication, they’re all fuel to the agitated perma-tension backdrop that is the KJ MO. Their time is now. Same as it ever was.

In Hammersmith for the last date of the current tour, it’s Love Like Blood that gets rolled out first, and even if we didn’t see The Big One being launched that fast, it’s a euphoric shot of unity to kick things off. Wardance cuts through next, then The Fall of Because. Which is, as ever, total psychosis. All rhythm and no groove, it tells you just how awkward and dissonant that early Killing Joke sound is. Pylon beast I Am The Virus barks huge, and by this point you’ve got the hang of the gig. You remember what it is that defines KJ live: relentlessness. The volume, the swirling lunacy of Geordie’s guitar, the permanent static, drones and crackle (or is it tinnitus?), the bass and kick drum vibrating your sternum. What you get live is a version of the band – the heaviest, least varied version. No spacious dub reworks, none of the recent dance-NRG uber anthems like European Super State or Big Buzz, nothing subtle like Primobile, no Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove ebb. It’s a one-dimensional bludgeon to the brink of the chaos.

Other tracks? Requiem, The Death and Resurrection Show, Mathematics of Chaos and Total Invasion are in there, as is The Wait whose tension-packed riff sounds more sinister and paranoid than ever. Best of all though is the apocalyptic This World Hell. Shit me. It’s heavy enough on Absolute Dissent, but here it’s a stop-start juggernaut in flames with a double kick that pummels from the inside out. And while we’re on that point, Big Paul Ferguson is end-to-end phenomenal.

A Bloodsport-Pandemonium encore wraps the night. Triumphant? Yeah, no question. It’s only in the dying seconds of stage time, just before everyone walks off, that Geordie’s face finally shows any expression – a huge smile as the band hug each other and thank the Hammersmith gathering. It belies the abrasion he’s concocted for the previous 90 minutes but this is nothing new. Effortless, expressionless force is his forte. Always has been.

How long can they keep doing their music live in this way? Don’t know, though the Lords of Chaos EP shows no sign of mellowing, not in the studio anyway. Bring on the next long player.

Want more Geordie? Check The Damage Manual

Killing Joke at Hammersmith 2022
Lords of chaos?