Tool Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, November 11

Tool Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, November 11
Photo: Carrie Musgrave
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The Class of '05 has dominated rock music in 2019. Rammstein, Slipknot and Green Day ended long hiatuses, while Rage Against the Machine and My Chemical Romance announced reunions, fulfilling every alt-kid's wish. But none of these revivals was as wildly anticipated as Tool's.
 
Thirteen years in the making, Fear Inoculum confounded listeners with its titanic runtime and bizarre take on the Tool formula. Now on tour, the band brought their new album to the Scotiabank Arena for the first of back-to-back shows on Monday night.
 
Due to some cool trickery, Tool actually performed surrounded by a huge hologram projected onto hundreds of strings that make up the stage curtain. They launched right in with "Fear Inoculum"; a ten-minute mostly instrumental jam track with no chorus might not be the obvious choice to pull listeners in, but Tool are far too cool to be bothered by such a small thing as audience reception.
 
The stadium's merciless acoustics plagued early numbers "Aenema" and "Parabola" before being sorted out later on. Guitarist Adam Jones could really look like he's having more fun. His eyes rarely left his feet, and he played brutally tight riffs like the ones in "Jambi" without betraying a hint of emotion. It's at odds with bassist Justin Chancellor, who strutted and flexed his stuff as he played some of the most iconic bass licks of the last two decades, "Schism" being an obvious high point. Even with the difference in approach, the two meshed perfectly on "Jambi," turning it into a highlight of the set.
 
The real star of the show had to be Danny Carey. He's already viewed as one of the best drummers in rock, and here it really showed. Flexing his mammoth chops on "Vicarious" and "Forty Six & Two," he took centre stage during the encore, playing all of "Chocolate Chip Trip" by himself, complete with gong solo and a whirring buzz of electronics worthy of Trent Reznor. Watching Carey flail, twist, groove and pound, it's hard not to wonder if he is in fact human, and not some percussion-based life form sent to us from Planet Prog.
 
Actually, it's interesting how the new songs clashed with the old. Aside such tightly written cuts as "Intolerance," the stuff from Fear Inoculum sounded more like Tool jamming then actual Tool. You could call "Pneuma" or "Descending" sonic prog experiments based on improvisation, or you could call them pretentious circle-jerking. You'd be right either way. But when Tool hit the mark there's no one better, and by the time they end with "Invincible" and "Stinkfist" (still the best Top 40 song about anal fisting to date), they have the audience in the palm of their hand.
 
Tool have always succeeded in spite of themselves. Like Pink Floyd before them, they've gotten bigger and bigger through no direct action of their own, their audience growing every time they get stranger and do what they are not supposed to do. Fear Inoculum might not be The Wall, but it has cemented Tool's place as eternal outsiders. They'll never conform to expectations. It's up to us to conform to them.