Tool at Xcel, 7/1/10

TOOL July 1, 2010 Xcel Energy Center

Do you ever get tickets for a big arena show, drive to one of the downtowns then stress out looking for parking, pull into the first ramp you see, pay up, and then, only then, does the thought strike you that you drove to the wrong venue, the wrong downtown?

This happens to me every time. As I round the Cathedral of St. Paul, I second-guess myself and wonder if I'm supposed to be at the Target Center. The moment I pass the stars outside First Avenue, I think, "Dagnabbit -- I'm supposed to be in St. Paul!" Well, if the droves of men, men, men in white caps, men in baggy cargos, men in graphic Ts moving like macho little ants up West 7th aren't a sure indication I've picked the correct arena for Thursday night's TOOL show, then by god slap me in the ass and tell me I'm at a Nickleback concert. Hello, Xcel Center, I think I'm in the right place.

This is to say nothing of the shades worn only by men on the purplest and neon-y greenest crotch rockets, the bad strip mall tattoos (and I can say so seeing as how I sport a few myself, well, a couple strip mall tattoos and one procured in a trailer). This is certainly the crowd that loves TOOL, but is it the crowd they've intentionally catered to?

TOOL, over their 20 year history, have put out four pretty epic full-length albums, won three Grammy awards, and written a whole lot of cerebral, sociopolitical and at times pretty darn homoerotic prog rock, with accompanying visual art likely to offend the sensibilities of those who subscribe to mom and pop cultural norms. Looking out at a sea of backwards-turned baseball caps and shirts ripped off in a drunken mania to reveal arms banded in tribal ink and rock-hard pectoral muscles for beating, I couldn't help but wonder why.

But then, I've never claimed to understand men. My friend's take: "I finally figured out why dudes like TOOL: they're like Celine Dion is for chicks - a good singer - but they're for dudes because they have hard beats, and that guy can really sing!

Perhaps. Or perhaps a band like TOOL encourages these dudes to step outside of the boxes in which they live their lives, even if only for a moment and even if they must get very drunk on plastic cup beer to do so.

As the band takes the stage a loudspeaker announces on repeat, "Think for yourself. Question authority." The meathead behind me screams, "Questchunnnnnnnnnn uhhhhhhhh thoooooooritaaaaaaay!"

His friend, deadpan. "Why are you wearing sunglasses indoors?"

Just then, singer Maynard James Keenan comes out, sporting a baseball cap, and wearing sunglasses indoors. Think like Maynard. Question authority.

Tool at Xcel, 7/1/10

So on the subject of questioning authority - let's talk about God (also a subject of some of TOOL's songs). The boyish young man in front of me is raising his arms up to Keenan like I've seen the kids do in those gospel CD commercials when that really catchy "Shout to the Lord, all the Earth let us sing" song comes on the TV. Okay, so back to TOOL's intent. White caps? Hero worship?

Jeez. I'm overthinking this. I'm not allowing myself to have any fun at all. I've seen TOOL so very many times (the last time being when my friend won tickets from 93x while taking a dump). The Xcel is so very big, and so full of drunk and sweaty men. I'm not drunk on booze but I'm definitely hungover on testosterone. You know you've reached adulthood when you can no longer stand being rubbed against by sweaty men and so escape through rows and rows of stairs searching booze relief, only to find the damned booze vendors (Darn you, Xcel!) have shut down for the night even though you know TOOL has at least 3 more ten minute songs to go. But this is precisely when you, an adult, want to tie one on! And so you go to the bathroom, sit on a toilet and transpose the TOOL guitar and drum licks into a series of "duhnduhns" (see below) while taking a shit and listening to the girls around you fluff their hair and squeal excitedly that they must return quickly to their boyfriends. Then you hope that the vendors shutting down is a sign you can soon go home. Sigh.

I'm TOO oLd, guys. Sigh.

Personal Bias: Writer can sing the guitar, bass and drum parts to any TOOL song when played on a bar room jukebox. Writer can also sing a mean TOOL karaoke, should the karaoke joint have TOOL (and in her experience, Vegas Lounge and U Otter do -- "Aenima," of course, the funnest song to sing). The writer thinks that being Maynard James Keenan would be the coolest job in the world. She first began thinking so when she saw him perform with A Perfect Circle at Roy Wilkins wearing nothing but a speedo and a bald head. Now, she thinks it because he gets to dress like a dad and dance like an autistic kid while throngs of burly men scream "Ohhhhhhhpiaaaaaaaaaaate, motherfucker!" at him, rip off their shirts, and pump their fists.

The Crowd: Bad goatee count (and for the record, what makes a bad goatee? It should looked like a weirdly-trimmed hedge): 1. 2. 3. 4 56789... 29.

Overheard in the crowd: "'Opiate,' motherfucker!" Clearly. I guess this is a song the half-naked burlyman behind me really wanted to hear.

Random Notebook Dump: "Maynard comes down from his shadowy loft to proudly snap their photos on an iphone or some shit, then pose for a self-portrait with the guy on the left. He's dressed like a dad, and now he's acting like one."

Set List: Guess any of these songs accurately and I'll treat you to a raspberry kamikaze while serenading you with my impassioned rendition of "Aenima" at Vegas Lounge.

1. Some song in an unconventional time signature with a guitar that goes whattupwhattup whattupwhattup whattupwhattup whattupwhattup, then drrn jnk drrn jnk drrn jnk drrn jnk drrn jnk. And then Maynard says something serious with a bunch of distortion, and then sings a real pretty part. Then he says something that sounds all creepy-like and Trent Reznor-y. Then Danny Carey goes fuckin' nuts on the toms and Maynard misses you so much. He just wants to watch you play, why you runnin' away?

2. More unconventional time signatures. Guitar goes "diddlediddle diddle diddle diddlediddle diddle diddle," then Maynard does some chanty-type vocals before wailing for a second, and then it ends like this: duh duh duh duh. Oh but wait, it's not over! Now the guitar is wailing "waaaaaaaaaah wah waaaaaaaaaah wah waaaaaaaah wah waaaaaaaaah" and guitarist Adam Jones is singing into a vocoder.

3. Dun dun... (squee) Dun dun... (squee) Dun dun... (Squee) dundun dundun dee dundun dundun dun dundun dundun dee dundun dundun dun, then dun dundun dee dun dundun dun dun dundun dun dun dundun dun. Maynard comes in with distorted vocals, alternatingly screamy and shouty and waily. And now we're all singing along. This song seems to be about on the surface about poking your fingers in buttholes though it likely has greater metaphorical context; in any case, a room full of dudes is now singing along that they'd like to keep digging. This song also employs unconventional time signatures.

4. This song's called, "I fucking hate it when people bounce giant 93x balloons above my head..." At least, that's what I've renamed it. It has a long intro that allows ample time for the drunk dude behind me to shout, "Mmrmrmbbrnrbenfbefdmotherfuckers!" at least 20 times. Then there's this unconventional time signature, and the drums come in real loud while the guitar goes "doodoodoo doodoodoo doo doodoodoo doodoodoo doo!" And maynard is singing something earnestly again through a CB radio lookin' thingy. I cannot understand any of the lyrics in this song, but now maynard is playing a keyboard and this is the creepiest video displayed on the jumbo screens thus far, with insects begotten by insects, borne of one another's heads. And eyeballs. Lots of eyeballs. And at the end Carey is wailing on the drums. Eyeballs!

5. There's a long quiet intro to the fifth song, which allows me the temporary respite to realize the dude behind me has been screaming, "Opiate, motherfuckers!" not "Mmrmrmbbrnrbenfbefdmotherfuckers!" This song goes doodoo doodoo wah wah doodoo doodoo wah wah. Then duhn duhn duhn duhn! Duhn duhn duhn dihn! Duhn duhn duhn duhn! Duhn duhn dihn dihn! "Opiate, fuckers!" He's so insistent! Then the song concludes, "Dihn dunnuh. Dinh dunnuh," but not before offering some slightly more conventional time signatures. Or perhaps I'm only saying so because they're so unconventional, they're impossible for my ears to follow. Not hard to listen to though, otherwise I certainly would have walked now (that's a hint, by the way, you TOOL geeks).

6. Doo doo doo doo dunnadunna doo doo doo doo dunna dunna, then they switch time signature but whoa, there were only like three "changeups" before the song ended. That's what my ex-boyfriend's 93x-inspired band called time signature changes: changeups. "No no no, go back to the changeup." "Should we put a changeup in that one before we go to the third verse?"

7. Duhnduhn. Duhn duhn duhn! Duhnduhn. Duhn duhn duhn! You know the pieces fit. Once I called in to 93x to inform the jockey that he was pronouncing this song incorrectly. Remember the Papal Sa Chiz Im of 1378? Me neither.

8. Dun dunnuh dunnuh dunnuh dunnuh. Dun dun dunnuh dunnuh dunnuh dunnuh. Dun dun dunnuh. Dun dun dunnuh dunnuh. Dun dun dunnuh. Dun dun dunnuh. Dunnuh. This one's my favorite.

9. Dugga dugga duh duhDugga dugga duh duh. This is the longest intro with the most unconventional time signatures of all. Duggadugga duhn duhn, duhn duhn duhnnuh duhn duhn, duhn duhn duhnnuh wahhhh wahhhh wahhhhhhwahhhhwahhwahh wahhhhh wahhhhhh wahhh wahhhhh wahhhwahhh. Duggadugga. Duggadugga. Duggadugga. Duggadugga.

10. Haay haay haay haay haay haay haay haay haay dunnu dunuhnuhnuh dunnunuh. Dunnu dunuhnuhnuh dunnuhnuh. I don't much care for LA myself.

For more photos, see our complete slideshow by Nick Wosika.

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