TOOL @ RAC Arena gets 10/10

Tool @ RAC Arena
w/ Author & Punisher

Friday, February 14, 2020


Fuck roses and chocolate! The best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2020, at least according to the metalheads of Perth, was with a ticket to Tool’s first gig in Australia after the 2019 release of their long-awaited album, Fear Inoculum. The masses who descended upon RAC Arena in their thousands were treated to a show that if summed up in one word would simply be “EPIC”, as Tool came out and did what they do best – that is, blow your fucking mind with a spectacular aural, visual show and a setlist that interweaved the right amount of new music with some of your favourite older songs.

Author And Punisher | Photo by Adrian Thomson

Former mechanical engineer turned artist Tristan Shone’s act, Author & Punisher, was an ideal support. His trancey, industrial vibes created a grim ambience like he was calling you to worship at the end of days. Stood in the middle of the massive stage in a cage of sorts, Shone seemed like he was preaching from the devil’s pulpit as his ‘cage’ lit up in harsh reds and whites with lots of blackouts. He stomped away while throwing down industrial doom metal using his custom-designed Drone Machines and Dub Machines, creating a sound that fell somewhere between Meshuggah, Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails, with the occasional Trent Reznor-esque vocals during the infrequent, haunting cleans.

With mad bass drops hitting a brown note at times, coupled with a really unsettling sound, Author & Punisher evokes dystopia – empty warehouses with broken windows and nothing but dust as far as the eye can see. You feel like things are definitely not going to be OK, like something bad is coming, and his steady, relentless, progressive beat would indeed be the perfect soundtrack to the approach of an army of the undead. It’s hard to imagine a better support act for Tool, as Author & Punisher is a completely unique proposition and his industrial vibes suit Tool’s shorter, weird tracks such as Die Eier von Satan.


A giant steel looking curtain fell all around the stage as we waited for Tool, the crowd on the packed out floor of the Arena getting restless. As the lights blacked out, the frenzy only increased to the opening notes of Fear Inoculum. And holy shit, that curtain around the stage used to project treats for the eye made one wish there were psychedelics on hand. Everything from skulls to the galaxy, to a weird ass eye looking all around was on the screen and Alex Grey’s artwork was well represented throughout the show. The curtain was still closed, but you could see guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Dan Carey behind his vast drumkit through it, and it looked fucking cool. Hovering in the back, in sauntered Maynard James Keenan slowly, and everyone immediately lost their minds.

As Fear Inoculum, glorious opening track to the album of the same name came to a close, with very little fuss MJK greeted the humans of Perth before the band launched into the always popular Ænima. The curtain was still closed, but now we got some strobe lighting to go along with this song about preparing for the end. The music video was projected on the gigantic screen behind the stage and the hive sang along with one voice. As per his wont, MJK still hovered in the back. His mohawk in profile as he silhouetted against the backdrop looked cool as fuck. Alex Grey’s artwork on this kind of scale was otherworldly, and watching Jones do his thing on guitar was just insane.


Next, came the mind-blowing combination of Parabol and Parabola, and all that could be said was “Holy fucking shit,” as we were reminded we should “Celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing”. Looking around it felt that this reminder was probably unnecessary as tears streamed from faces that were smiling while singing. With Fear Inoculum as an album carrying some really uplifting messages, Parabol and Parabola felt really in theme and the crowd fucking loved it. When considering what the opening tracks were, it started to feel like this setlist was a narrative and that as a whole, it was trying to tell a story.

Then, finally, the curtains opened. MJK crouched like Anderson “The Spider” Silva and Pneuma, one of the best tracks from their latest, was the perfect follow up to the powerful combo that came before it. This is an important track. Spiritual, uplifting, a song that should make one feel closer to one’s fellow humans. Now that the curtain was gone we could finally see drum god Danny Carey in all his glory, and boy, it was glorious. The lighting and projections were completely unique for each track, and while sometimes this distracted from the genius musicians on stage, it was hard not to just sit back in awe of what was being presented at all times.


The loudest cheer thus far came for next track, Schism, as Chancellor got some time in the spotlight. With its video also playing in the background and everyone singing every word, this really was spectacular and seemed like it would be tough to follow, but then, boom motherfuckers! Here’s Jambi. Jones and Chancellor traversed the large stage to get closer for a bit of a cuddle, and why not! The production value, the sound quality – even in a stadium – and the fact that all of this magnificent music was coming from only four people, was definitely worth celebrating.

Back to the new album for Descending, just a genuinely beautiful song somehow even more so when performed live. It built up so prettily, the message so clear – “To be or not to be?” and “Stay alive”, the guitar solo in this one so full of feeling, the long instrumental outro meaning that all three of Chancellor, Jones and Carey were an absolute joy to watch, these musicians who are amongst the best at what they do on the planet.

Then to close things out before the encore, another treat from 1996 album Ænima, Forty Six & 2 saw the transparent steel curtain return. Jones had fun with this one, adding guitar flourishes, and Carey’s drum solo was impressive to see live, the spotlight on him as he closed it out, and rightly so. Afterwards, all four musicians up stood to attention, facing the crowd who were showering them with reverent appreciation.


Interestingly, the band then disappeared and a timer for 12 minutes came up on the veil. Sweet, time for a pee and to grab a drink! When it ended drummer Carey got to really show off his chops with an extended solo, starting with a massive gong – and wow, can he make that thing talk! – before getting back behind his kit for Chocolate Chip Trip. When you’re this good, it’s not indulgence. A birdseye view of him doing his sorcery was projected onto the screen in a kaleidoscope.

Invincible was well received by the crowd afterwards with an impressive amount of people clearly singing along despite the newness of the record. And lucky us, Stinkfist to end things. Just… wow. What a show.

Tool’s setlist for this tour, when considered song by song with some of the main themes that come out of the lyrics for the songs chosen, seems curated holistically to create a narrative about the state of the world today with a message from the band about what we should think about and focus on. But, then again, maybe that’s just a fan thesis for another time.


Photos by Stu McKay