On November 6th, 2023, the band Tool made a stop on their North American 2023 Fall Tour at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. I arrived at the venue early and saw a long line of fans waiting outside in the cold rain, eagerly waiting for the doors to open at 6 P.M. I was excited to see Tool perform live, as I had never seen them before. The venue doors opened promptly. When I got inside, I noticed No Camera policy signs plastered throughout the venue. The sign read, "We Respectfully Request That You Please Watch And Listen To The Show, Not Your Phone". I wish more concerts would take this approach for live music. A mass of fans steadily streamed into the building, waiting for the 7:30 start time for the show.
The venue started to fill up when the opening act, Steel Beans, kicked off the concert at 7:45 P.M. Originating from Everett, WA, the band Steel Beans featuring Jeremy DeBardi set the tone for the evening. When I say featuring, Jeremy DeBardi is the only band member! He walked up to his set-up consisting of a drum kit, guitar, synthesizer-keyboard, and various other music-making devices. His appearance tied in perfectly to his act, dressed in shorts, his face completely painted green, and wearing a blonde wig. I feel the audience wasn’t really sure what to expect from this unique artist. He explained that this was his first-ever tour and went into his first song. His 30-minute set was an interesting and exceptional performance. His music had a different but cool vibe. A 60s rock blended with a 70s punk feel while sprinkling in some other genres into the mix. Between songs, his set was filled with some comedy and some banter exchanged with the audience. This was a refreshing strangeness that had the fans pumped up and primed for the headliner!
The venue was at near capacity now when Los Angeles, California-based ‘Tool’ took to the stage at 8:40 P.M. to thunderous applause. The stage setup had a giant pentagram in front of an enormous video screen behind the group. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan was dimly lit on a catwalk that flanked drummer Danny Carey in the center of the stage. While guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor were up close on opposite sides of the stage.
Opening with “Fear Inoculum,” the crowd went wild and the show didn't waver from that moment. As I stated before, this was my first time seeing ‘Tool’ live and I am not a purist of their music so I didn’t know what to expect. What I can say is the sound was on point- crisp and LOUD! I was amazed at how these three musicians pulled that much sound from their instruments and how good the sound was inside the venue. What you won’t see are flashy stage antics, but you will get a phenomenal sound and visual experience.
The set continued with lengthy versions of “Jambi," “The Pot," “Rosetta Stoned,” and “Pneuma." Maynard James Keenan flashed in and out of the shadows, never taking the spotlight, and breathed life to the music with his vocals. Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor sounded fantastic, flashing intricate leads and runs on their respective instruments. Danny Carey crafted an intense performance on the drums. I can’t say enough about how good this sounded. The stage production was big. The giant video screen played visuals of a little bit of everything- a kaleidoscope of colors, people, it never stopped. The laser show and light show were a trippy visual journey, a well-done production.
Closing out the set were the songs “Descending” and “The Grudge,” ending with a short 12-minute intermission. At 10 P.M. Danny Carey stood up to a giant gong and started playing the very trippy “Chocolate Chip Trip." The giant video screen showed a swirling kaleidoscope top view of him playing the drums. The next song featured a dimly lit stage with all four band members seated near the front and went into “Culling Voices,” the tenderest (for Tool) song of the night. A really cool visual happened in the center of the venue, it started to gently snow large glitter throughout the entire song.
Ramping the fans up with “Invincible,” the experience continued with everyone standing and cheering. For the encore song, Maynard said hello to Rochester and informed everyone that “You can now take out your stupid phones and record the next song,” and the crowd cheered. The band played “Stinkfist” and cell phones came out to capture a token reminder of an incredible concert!
Tool are; Maynard James Keenan - vocals, Adam Jones - guitar, Justin Chancellor - bass, Danny Carey - drums
Setlist; Fear Inoculum, Jambi, The Pot, Rosetta Stoned, Pneuma, Descending, The Grudge, Chocolate Chip Trip, Culling Voices, Invincible, Stinkfist per setlist fm