Tool Brings Fear Inoculum Tour To Boston’s TD Garden: Review & Photos

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Tool’s sold-out performance at Boston’s TD Garden on Thursday (November 14) was a masterstroke of an arena rock experience that reinforced their reputation as one of the most important bands in the world. Fear Inoculum, the group’s fifth album, was released this past August and after waiting 13 years since their last release, Tool fans collectively went hysterical. The album knocked Taylor Swift off her perch atop the Billboard Chart and was met with widespread critical acclaim, but there were still questions about how it would sound in a live setting.

Their last performance in the Bay State was a headlining slot at Boston Calling that felt stale and uninspired without any new material to perform. But on this trip, their excitement to perform new songs was palpable and the end result was their best performance in New England since the release of 2006’s 10,000 Days.

Vocalist Maynard James Keenan is notorious for subverting frontman norms and performing from the back of the stage on a riser next to drummer Danny Carey. During their Boston Calling performance in May 2017, Keenan spent the entire show in his unlit corner, cloaked head to toe in literal body armor and seemingly going through the motions.

Keenan’s public persona is as complicated as it is frustrating. He performs in costume, rarely speaks to the crowd without a thick layer of sarcasm and rejects the premise that his success entitles the public to his private side. He keeps his cards so close to his chest that during an interview with JamBase in 2010, he not only refused to discuss inner-band deliberations, but he essentially denied that they existed. He’s very much the anti-Grohl and you never know which MJK will take the stage but fans in Boston weren’t left guessing: he was clear he was having a ton of fun.

Keenan used the entire stage and looked as enthusiastic as he has in years when singing new songs like “Pneuma” and “Invincible.” He teased the crowd about Dunkin Donuts and before performing “Intolerance,” off their freshman release, he made sure to let ticketholders under 30 know that that they weren’t even sperm when he wrote the song.

For the first third or so of the set, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor each kept to their respective side of the stage. They play the material note for note like the studio album and they probably could have played the set without being in the same room. That said, during “Schism” Chancellor and Jones huddled up and played off of each other and went off-script, with the dynamic extending into “Jambi.”

For Carey’s part, the rhythmic wizard was perched atop his bronze throne in the center of the stage. The notorious Lakers fan came out in a Boston Celtics jersey to the crowd’s delight but watching 17 championship banners bask in the light of his laser show must have been too much because he returned from the intermission in a Lakers jersey.

He took a long drum solo that started off as anything but percussive. Carey tweaked his way around an old school modular synth until he got his sequence set and then he played over it on his Mandala, an absurdly sensitive hand drum synth Carey is credited with co-creating. From there he took it to his main kit and showed the crowd what he could do. Very little is more masturbatory than a lengthy drum solo but Carey is highly regarded as an all-planet drummer and when you’ve got that kind of weapon in your arsenal, you go for broke.

In light of how recently they’d performed in Boston, it was surprising how fast Tool sold out the 18,500 seat arena. The secondary ticket market had been absurd for months and even on the night of the show, the cheapest seat in the house was selling for over $250.

I was skeptical of how much better this show could have been than the one they played in town two years prior but their enthusiasm for the new material bled into the rest of the performance and made for a captivating experience from start to finish. Keenan, Carey, Chancellor and Jones have inaugurated a whole new era of Tool and when you consider how long they’ve been waiting, that makes it an incredibly exciting time to be a Tool fan. Even more so if you have a ticket.

Setlist

Tool at TD Garden

  • Fear Inoculum
  • Ænema
  • The Pot
  • Parabol
  • Parabola
  • Pneuma
  • Schism  
  • Jambi  
  • Vicarious
  • Intolerance
  • Forty Six & 2
Intermission
  • Chocolate Chip Trip
  • Invincible
  • (-) Ions
  • Stinkfist  

Tour Dates for Tool

  • Jan
    10
  • Jan
    12
  • Jan
    13
  • Jan
    14
  • Jan
    15
  • Jan
    17
  • Jan
    18
  • Jan
    21
  • Jan
    22
  • Jan
    28
  • Jan
    29
  • Jan
    31
  • Feb
    1
  • Feb
    14
    Perth Arena
  • Feb
    17
    Qudos Bank Arena
  • Feb
    18
    Qudos Bank Arena
  • Feb
    20
    Brisbane Entertainment Centre
  • Feb
    22
    Rod Laver Arena
  • Feb
    23
    Rod Laver Arena
  • Feb
    28
    Spark Arena
  • Feb
    29
    Spark Arena