The thing with seeing Tool for the sixth time is that you know exactly what you’re getting. There won’t be any curveballs—which is, of course, no surprise for a band that’s now 33 years old and infamous for carefully constructing its albums over many years.
The stage setup is reliable—guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor out front, trading off at alternating times holding down rhythm and working on the hypnotic; Danny Carey surrounded by a transdimensional space pod of a drum rig; and vocalist Maynard James Keenan loping and squatting and gyrating in the shadows behind the band. You know you’ll get a light show that mimics LSD’s ability to warp space and time. You know you’ll get a deep cut or two.
But if you’re seeing them for the sixth time, none of that matters. It might even be a selling feature, because within that established template, the parameters are set for every single person in the room to embark on a voyage that only Tool can navigate and accompany us on.
The band was in top form at Rogers Arena, even if the show was bogged down at times by the lengthy newer material culled from the band’s most recent album, 2019’s Fear Inoculum. But even that was executed with psychedelic precision and was hard not to get lost in. The music mutated and evolved, spiralling out, jammy without ever jamming, before you perhaps realized: wait, what fucking song are we even in? Then Maynard’s voice was there to help you find your way back.
The reason Tool has remained so durable after all these years—and how a proggy heavy art-rock outfit can nearly sell out a hockey arena in 2023 with borderline unaffordable ticket prices—is that no one explores the existential anxiety, anger, and beauty of this time in history in quite as sophisticated a way. A show of no surprises has never sounded so sublime.