On June 2nd, 2017 I drove to Montreal to see Tool perform at the Bell Centre. It’s not very often that I get too excited to see I band I am almost completely ignorant to, but I was with Tool. My experience with the group was scant; years before I had half-paid attention to one of their live videos at a get-together on Elgin Street and I had once laboriously taught one of their songs to a guitar student, a jumpy little ditty that turned out being in 13/8 time or some such thing.
But it was enough to pique my interest. And then, when years went by without Tool turning up on my concert calendar it occurred to me that they didn’t tour very often – if at all – which of course made me even more interested when they announced their Montreal date, so I pounced.
I had pretty good seats, near the front of the lower bowl on the corner of stage left. Some outfit called Once And Future Band opened the show, a chuggy rock offering that was much poppier than the evening really called for, but they were fine and they looked like they were having fun.
When Tool came out the whole room changed. From the opening moment all the way to the final crunch the show was a blistering sensual assault, the churning melismatic prog metal barely keeping up with the absolutely enormous and incessantly strobing big screen that battered all with eyes to see. The images were creative, engaging, and relentless, and they added to the show immensely.
It only took a few songs to realize that the singer wasn’t going to leave his safe-space at the back of the stage. It was an odd and refreshing change to see the frontman of a big rock and roll touring show band keep to himself and concentrate on the music rather than play host to the whole affair and make the show worth watching.
But then, they had the screen to do that.
In the end I won’t say I was disappointed with the show, but I will say it didn’t live up to my hopes and dreams. I was really and truly expecting to walk out of the Bell Centre a changed man, a brand-new raging Tool fan bursting with vim and vigour after experiencing such a mind-bending display of heavy metal prog trickery but alas, I merely shrugged and agreed with m’lady that the show was “fine” and we drove back to Ottawa.
Funny, now that I reflect on it I can just imagine what would have happened if fourteen year old me could have somehow witnessed this concert. My hopes of walking out a changed (young) man would unquestionably have come true. There’s no doubt about it, a raging display of musicianship like that combined with such a mind-blowing visual presentation would have simply freaked me out at that age.
I guess that’s what happens when you go to too many concerts.