Tool and the Descanting of Galileo’s Mathematical Language of God

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1.

Nothing locks a reader out of an article like hyperbolae, but it’s a struggle to find any terms other to describe what was experienced at Tool’s most recent Australian shows.

Put simply, the opening track, ‘Fear Inoculum’ was one of the most remarkable, powerful artefacts of popular culture that I have experienced to date.

There wasn’t much to recommend going to see the dreaded Rod Laver Arena on a Sunday night. Firstly, the ticket price was $200 dollars.

Secondly, I started work the next day at 6am – which meant I was probably going to get four hours sleep afterwards – and finally, the show was held at Rod Laver arena, one of Melbourne’s most sterile ‘entertainment’ complexes.

That said, I was pleased to discover my seat at the bottom of the very first tier of seating. It meant I was close as I could be while seated in direct eye-line with the stage. This piece of good fortune ultimately proved pivotal to my experience.

It has been seven years since Tool last played in Australia. I had seen them twice before; once at Festival Hall in 1997 and then again in 2011 at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The first time I was entirely enamoured of their second album, Aenima.

The next time, I went along mainly because my friends were going, even though I wasn’t entirely familiar with the album they were touring, 10,000 Days.

The quality of those concerts was outstanding, but I missed them when they returned behind the album Lateralus, primarily because I’m resentful of paying more than $100 for a concert ticket in a shithole like the Rod Laver Arena.

I am ashamed to admit that this time around, I hadn’t even listened to the new album, Fear Inoculum. I’d heard the title track, which I found to be immensely moving and quite beautiful, but had intended to lie on my back and stare at the roof while under the influence of psychedelics the first time I heard the album in its entirety.

After all, there are precious few popular artists so powerful and you don’t get too many albums like this. Having said that, I had the mushrooms but had failed to make the time to indulge.

**

It’s been a long while since I’ve been to a venue packed with so many dudes wearing black t-shirts. I sat on my own, having avoided the support act (a friend of mine who loves Behemoth declared that it had given him a headache) and watched as the road crew put the finishing touches to the stage.

Signs were dotted about the arena declaring that photographing and recording the performance on mobile phones meant immediate ejection from the premises. There has been complaint about Tool’s rigorous attitude to ‘piracy’, but ultimately, the concert experience justified it entirely.

Tool make much use of lights and digital screens, but on this occasion a thin, translucent beaded curtain was drawn out on a rail to enclose the immediate stage. Soon after, the band emerged and took up their positions to the applause of a packed house.

The song ‘Fear Inoculum’ began with what sounded like two cymbals chiming. They rang several times, reminiscent of the bell in ceremonial witchcraft which is used to clear the air before a ceremony begins.

As the music began to wind its way through the auditorium, building slowly and progressively, the song worked to essentially bring everyone into the space.

Huge digital screens dominated the stage above the band, and what I would describe as experimental films were projected upon them. Geometric shapes and fields; in particular huge, billowing clouds of lava rolled toward the audience in perpetual efflorescence.

Digital animation gave the clouds symmetry, creating the effect of a Rorschach blot that progressively opened towards you.

Throughout the concert, the screens featured other films of similar nature, some of which employed images that psychedelic artist Alex Grey drew for their albums Lateralus and 10,000 Days; flaming eyes and tundras of geometric space defined by vectors and lines.

These were not unlike the kinds of patterns that feature in religious Islamic artwork, animated here for an even more potent effect.

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