Maynard James Keenan wasn’t the man behind the curtain, exactly, but he certainly drew little enough attention to himself Tuesday when his band performed to a capacity crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena.
There were no illuminating spotlights, no casual between-songs patter (or, in fact, any patter at all): Keenan spent most of the set in the shadows near the drum setup at the back of the stage, focused intently on the music during a set that sprawled past 90 minutes on just 10 songs.
With no centerstage rock-star ego trips, the music was the main attraction: intense, virtuosic music at once heavy and nimble, and darkly compelling. The songs shifted through distinct sections, anchored by primal, pulsing instrumental patterns that seemed to alternate between guitar, bass and drums.
Guitarist Adam Jones played the hypnotic riff on “Stinkfist” with the grace of a six-string boxer, jabbing, jabbing, weaving away and then throwing a powerful right hook, over and over, as fists in the audience pumped in unison. He dialed in swells of overdriven guitar at the start of “Schism,” and played a taut, circular part on “Lateralus” that erupted into a cascade of crackling sparks. Bassist Justin Chancellor created an impenetrable thicket of low-end on “Pushit,” and played a springy, elastic riff on “Forty-Six & 2.”
Keenan alternated between anguished and eerily quiet, his vocals on “Ticks & Leeches” shifting from a whisper to words barked in lockstep with the guitar riff. He sang on “Jambi” in a plain, ghostly voice all the creepier for his restraint, and his voice was swathed in reverb over spacey, Pink Floyd-style atmospherics and a slippery bassline on “Intension.”
After Tool played “Lateralus,” drummer Danny Carey pushing against the strictures of rhythm and meter, the band left the stage while ambient sound writhed and throbbed, before returning to blast through “Ænema,” bass rumbling over hollow, thudding drums as Keenan sneered out despairing lyrics in verses wrapped around a scorching slide guitar break.
Oregon trio Yob opened the show. The group, comprising two bassists and a drummer, rumbled through a half-hour set with the gut-quaking dark heat of a implacably advancing river of lava, the bassists’ hair flying as they reveled in low-end.
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