Tool

support Brass Against
author PP date 23/04/22 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

To catch Tool live in Denmark has been an extremely rare opportunity. So much so that today's Royal Arena concert is the first time the band is playing indoors in Copenhagen since the 90s. They did play a rare festival show a few years back at Copenhell, but that was a late-night after a whole lot of beers and in a loud, uncontrollable outdoor environment. Given how closely the band's performance these days (and perhaps always has) resembles performance art, it should be at its best at a state-of-the-arena venue like this one. Especially since it's a fully seated show, thus removing all the beer-fueled thuggery mainstream bands usually attract on the floor. No surprise then that the evening sold out almost instantly when tickets went on sale in October last year.

Brass Against

Tool has always been a curious artist to study and witness. They've been called pretentious before, so whether tonight's choice of supporting band is a part of that or some kind of attempt at self-irony of the same remains a mystery. Brass Against, you see, is a musical collective specializing exclusively in covers of protest music performed using a brass orchestra. Think Tuba, Trumpets, and other horn instruments accompanying a guitar and drums and a female vocalist with Zach De La Rocha levels of vitriolic rage in her voice. Sounds pretty good? On paper, yes, but as we go through Audioslave's "Cochise" and Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls On Parade", "Killing In The Name Of", and "Guerilla Radio", it resembles most of all a joke. After all, if you sever the brass section, this is exactly the sort of material you tend to hear at your local pub by your average pub rock band.

Sure, it's a different interpretation given the choice of instruments, but ultimately you're standing there watching a cover band playing covers. I don't know about you, but personally, I despise when bands add even a single cover song to their set since it's always going to take place of one of their own songs. In this case, Brass Against takes someone else's slot altogether.

And that's not all, folks. They cover two (!) Tool songs in the process: "Stinkfist" and "Forty Six & Two". So let me get this straight: Tool picks a Tool cover band to support their show? After the initial positive shock of hearing familiar tunes presented in a wholly new light, the novelty quickly wears off and at least I'm left puzzled about the point of it all.

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Tool

As mentioned above, Tool has always been known for its artistic and introverted approach to its performances. Maynard James Keenan prefers to hide towards the back of the stage, arguably so his persona wouldn't take focus away from the overall expression, but evil tongues have in the past pointed out it could be due to stage fright or similar.

Tonight's opening does not alleviate any of those concerns as the band's stage is surrounded by a circular, laced curtain. Granted, it allows them a chance to project some incredibly cool visuals around it that create a three-dimensional effect. For example, you can see their signature skull both at the front of the curtain but also on the sides and towards the back of the stage as it slowly moves across the stage.

Inside the curtains, you have two giant platforms on both sides of the complex drum kit, with guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor holding spots on both sides of the stage floor. Maynard himself exhibits crab-like movement and hypnotic dance moves, alternating on both platforms and howling into his microphone, while an illuminated star hangs above the drummer at center stage.

The sound is excellent early on with heavy guitars rumbling around the arena as the band kicks off with "Fear Inoculum" from the new album and follows it up with the remaster version two of the title track from their 1992 "Opiate" EP. It's a duo of songs foreshadowing things to come, as the band will exclusively focus on the new album as well as deep cuts from their back catalogue tonight. No chance of the usual fan favorites in "Stinkfist", "Schism", "Parabola", et cetera, as the band instead opts for rarely played tracks like "Hooker With A Penis".

As a result, the crowd response is rather muted, save for "The Pot" from "10,000 Days", during which Maynard bends backward on the stage while hallucinating visuals paint a colourful and trippy landscape on the stage. At this point, the show is almost like going to the theater to watch a static performance that's all about abstract art instead.

Eventually, the curtain opens fully and the arena bathes in blue laser lights that battle against each other across the venue. "The Grudge" from "Lateralus" is a clear hit as the floor transforms into a sea of bopping heads where it looks like some people can barely stay on their chairs as a result.

At this point, the show is solid but certainly not spectacular. Depth-laden and complex, Tool's gradual progression tonight is all about attentiveness and appreciation of the life-changing songs they have written during their career. Case in point: every now and then you can witness a different audience member standing up, spreading his arms wide, and screaming backward towards the audience as if he's living the song there and then. The total ban on mobile phone usage during the concert of course helps people to focus on the music instead, which creates a peculiar effect as if the people are students listening to a professor lecturing about unconventional time-signatures in song composition.

After "Hooker With A Penis" activates the crowd, the band opts for a twelve-minute encore (no joke - they just call it 'intermission' instead), before returning to play three songs from "Fear Inoculum" including the drum-solo part of "Chocolate Chip Trip". Here's where a classic song would've worked much better if you ask me.

Then, confetti rains down on the arena as the star is lowered to the center of the stage to just above the band where the band finally gets up close and personal to the front rows - Maynard included. "Culling Voices" is performed here as an intimate four-piece while sitting down on chairs.

Finally, Maynard announces: you know it's OK to stand up. Oh geez, so why did you make the show a seated concert instead? Now it's also apparently fine to use mobile phones as well, and given how strict the security was upfront, kindly reminding every single person that phones must remain in our pockets, it does feel a tad pretentious, if you know what I mean.

At the end of the day, tonight's Tool set is one where mainstream favorites were exchanged with loads of new material from "Fear Inoculum" and deep cuts from their discography. Was it the celebration of awe-inspiring depth and songwriting in an arena setting that we had all been waiting for? Probably not. A solid show, but two or three classics would've made all the difference in the world.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Fear Inoculum
  • 2. Opiate
  • 3. The Pot
  • 4. Pushit
  • 5. Pneuma
  • 6. The Grudge
  • 7. Right in Two
  • 8. Descending
  • 9. Hooker With a Penis
  • --Encore--
  • 10. Chocolate Chip Trip
  • 11. Culling Voices
  • 12. Invincible

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