Last night in Paris… Tool

The metal group led by Maynard James Keenan offered the first Bercy of its career. A stretched, strange but downright fascinating show.

Signs and voice announcements will get you in the mood: “Please don’t film or record tonight’s concert. Anyone who violates this request will be asked to vacate the room. So welcome to Tool, an American metal phenomenon, a quartet founded 30 years ago by Maynard James Keenan and far too absent from the French stages. With the exception of two festival concerts in 2007 (Rock en Seine) and 2019 (Hellfest), Tool hadn’t performed indoors in Paris in 15 years. This Bercy therefore announced full very quickly between two incarcerations – despite a seated pit decided at the time of health standards.

Tool on stage Thursday night in Paris.

Tool on stage Thursday night in Paris.

© Pierre Hennequin

At 9 p.m., fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, Danny Carrey settles behind the barrels and opens the show. Justin Chancellor and Adam Jones leave their mark on the front of the stage, while the group’s trademark psychedelic images are projected onto the backstage screen. A huge white curtain surrounds the stage, making it impossible to distinguish all the silhouettes. As “Fear Inoculum” reverberates in an elated Accor Arena, Maynard James Keenan enters, hiding as always on a platform at the back of the stage. No spotlight on the musicians, no one wants to shine solo. Non Tool is primarily an experimental journey, a live dive into the intricacies of complex, stretched songs, far from the verse/chorus structure. Only problem, Maynard James Keenan is barely audible.

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Tool offered the first Bercy of his career.

Tool offered the first Bercy of his career.

© Pierre Hennequin

The visuals eventually grab you and at Tool we quickly find the best of King Crimson; a brutal approach to music, with his guitar flights, his rhythm breaks. For 13 minutes, “Fear Inoculum” lets itself be captured – on the other hand, as far as the magnetism of the musicians is concerned, we go back. The absence of cameras makes communion complicated. “Good evening Paris” launches Keenan twice, with a huge decal. This will be his only speech for the next two hours. Car Tool has a job to do and a catalog to defend.

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Tool in Paris on Thursday evening.

Tool in Paris on Thursday evening.

© Pierre Hennequin

Featuring “Opiate” in the early 90’s – the title appeared on their first Ep. Little by little, Keenan’s voice gains strength and the thinking head becomes more and more involved. We can feel him listening to his three musicians concentrated in a show that demands a lot of effort from both the stage and the audience. Security guards watch in the aisles and wage war on cell phones. Strange feeling of being observed, watched by an overly ubiquitous security. When the pit goes up for “The Pot”, it’s the appearance of the images of “Pusit” on screens that get a standing ovation. And when the curtain finally opens – after 40 minutes of show, Bercy cheers. With the recent “Pneuma” we are at the pinnacle of the Tool system: titles that take their time to boot, then guitar, bass and drums accelerate together, allowing them to arrive on a false flat and start over towards the final climax. † Maynard James Keenan moves from one platform to another, refusing to interact with the fans, leaving Justin Chancellor and his bass shaking the walls of the Arena.

Keenan, wearing a huge decal on Thursday night in Paris.

Keenan, wearing a huge decal on Thursday night in Paris.

© Pierre Hennequin

The audience – mostly male and headless under the age of 30 – listens religiously and admires Adam Jones’ six-string digressions such as Danny Carey’s breathtaking drum breaks. Then came “The Grudge”. There Tool is at the top of his game after an hour of concert. Impossible not to be convinced by the power of the whole, by Keenan’s total involvement in his singing, a hymn to the frustration you have to manage to live. There we understand the whole meaning of an aesthetic and rigid approach, but also sometimes saving; Tool wants to make tormented souls cry their wrath, come out of their inner malaise and try to make their way through the din of the world. The 10 minutes of the title are such a demonstration that the concert could end there. Especially since the case ends with a Keenan screaming out all his rage, like a madman in an asylum, locked in his straitjacket. The result is inevitably a tone below. Hard to bathe again with “Righ in Tow” or the 15 minutes of the recent “7empest”.

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Even if everything is visually flawless, it’s cold musically. Luckily when Keenan grabs a megaphone for “Hooker with a penis” Tool goes back to what he’s good at; intense noise, a sound aggression that shakes you, without necessarily disturbing you. After the 1h40 show, the four musicians leave the stage and a countdown takes place on the screen. That’s a ten minute break – giant bathroom break, time to refill your beer and continue robbing the expensive merchandising stands (T-shirt at 40 euros, 300 euros for the signed poster).

Tool Thursday at the Accor Arena in Paris.

Tool Thursday at the Accor Arena in Paris.

© Pierre Hennequin

When Bercy plunges back into the darkness, a very different group returns. For half an hour, Tool knits around three recent pieces. Danny Carey’s electronic hacks form the basis of ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’. Then the musicians come and sit in front of the stage to provide a surprising “Culling voices” – the only truly emotional bubble of the evening. Keenan thanks Paris. “We haven’t been here for a long time, we’ll try to do better next time,” he says, “and if all goes well, you’ll find me again next summer with Puscifer (one of his other groups). So now make your photos, get your “dumb stuff” out to film. Thank you”. Tool retires on the fantastic “Invicible” after 2h25 of a masterful, powerful, serious show, without any lightness and interaction. But Tool was there last night in Paris to restore souls rather than distract them. In that sense, the mission was accomplished.

Tool Thursday at the Accor Arena in Paris.

Tool Thursday at the Accor Arena in Paris.

© Pierre Hennequin

Setlist from May 12, 2022, Paris, Accor Arena
1/ Fear Inoculum
2/ Opiate
3/ The Pot
4/ Pushit
5/ Pneumatic
6/ The Resentment
7/ Right to tow
8/7empes
9/ Whore with a penis
10/ Chocolate Chip Trip
11/ Clearing votes
12/ Invincible

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