Tool channel demons — and Dwight Schrute — at intense Halloween show at Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum

Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Tool performs at a previous date of their "Fear Inoculum" tour. The metal band played Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum on Halloween.

The guys in Tool played like monsters in Milwaukee Thursday.

And at the end of their Halloween night set at a sold-out Fiserv Forum, they played as monsters.

For encore songs “Forty Six & 2”’ and an extended “Stinkfist,” drummer Danny Carey wore a skull mask over his face, while bassist Justin Chancellor came out without a shirt wearing a frightening, bald, oversized mascot head. Guitarist Adam Jones’ costume may have been the scariest one:  Dwight Schrute from “The Office” — with nunchucks.

Despite wearing likely uncomfortable masks that probably impeded their vision to some extent, Carey and Chancellor summoned a beastly finish worthy of the towering two hours that preceded it.

Fans of course would anticipate nothing less. Few albums in recent years have been released with as much hype as Tool’s “Fear Inoculum” in August; 13 years passing since the last acclaimed release tends to do that. But against all odds, Tool managed to surpass incredibly high expectations.

Four of the thirteen songs performed Thursday came from “Inoculum” (that’s typically not a lot of songs for a headlining show, but most of the performances were about 10 minutes long).

Instrumental “Chocolate Chip Trip,” a solo showcase for Carey, illustrated just how unorthodox Tool is, with Carey starting the track rolling drum sticks across the tops and sides of a large gong (perhaps four feet in diameter) and gently creating a thunderstorm of sound tapping around the circle with a soft-headed mallet, before giving it a wallop. From there he moved over to the drum kit, for a jazz like start-and-stop rumble over bizarre electronic beats. 

And the title track, which kicked off Thursday's show, summarized what makes Tool so special. It spanned more than 10 minutes live, the music frequently swelling and receding. Carey's percussion grew from soft rolling taps to kick drum wallops. Jones' guitar expanded from droning washes to thunderous reverb. The song came closer to a boil when Chancellor revved up his bass lines. But the song maintained its sense of dread, and never reached the cathartic, pressure-alleviating crescendo you would expect, or subconsciously desire. That frequent resistance, and restraint, across most of the songs made the show much more riveting.

Tool performs at a previous date of their "Fear Inoculum" tour. The metal band played Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum on Halloween.

Frontman Maynard James Keenan is a key part of that tension, although Thursday you couldn't really call him a frontman. Sporting a gnarly mohawk, Keenan largely sang in the shadows, alternating between elevated platforms on either side of Carey's drums. He was still an engaging performer, the way he crouched and stalked the stage with sinister, smirking body language. He reminded me at times of Gollum, sitting on the edge of the platform for 2006's "Jambi" and kicking his feet, and during "Inoculum" track "Pneuma," he mischievously hulked one of James' guitar cabinets up to one of those platforms. But Keenan never erupted into overly animated gestures, and his voice, clearly commanding in tone, rarely barked or soared, by design.

For show highlight "Ænema," from Tool's 1996 opus "Ænima," intense visuals were projected across a semi-circular chain link curtain in front of the band, blinding lights flooded the arena, and Keenan's bandmates attacked their instruments as he sang of the approaching apocalypse. And yet Keenan's voice remained calm, never rising up to the bombast you'd expect given the song's Doomsday scenario (and dozens of F-bombs), which made his desire for the end times more unsettling. 

That said there were a few true show stopping moments Thursday, like when Jones and Chancellor turned toward Carey, Keenan crouching by his side and rapidly slapping his thighs, during a sledgehammer-style drum break for "Schism," from 2001's "Lateralus."

And Keenan's voice did ultimately rise theatrically above the fray, belting out damnation for "Intolerance" from 1993's debut album "Undertow." "You are not innocent," he snarled. "No one is innocent."

Even with that mohawk and Halloween-worthy spirit, Keenan was the lone Tool member who didn't sport a costume Thursday. But he did wear the best outfit in the band — a Green Bay Packers shirt. 


Between Geordie Walker’s crushing guitar. Paul Ferguson’s pulsating drums, and ominous frontman Jaz Coleman — stalking around the stage, reminiscent of The Crow — Killing Joke aptly set the tone for Tool and the holiday with their 45-minute set. They also helped set the tone for industrial metal as we know it; you could hear the impact on Nine Inch Nails on Killing Joke songs like “Complication” and “Total Invasion" Thursday, and see how Coleman’s ghastly stage presence, and vocals that fluctuated from eerie cool to scathing simmer, influenced Marilyn Manson. And with all four original members on the stage Thursday, Killing Joke also showed they’re no mere forefathers on a victory lap, but a powerful force in concert, 31 years after their first shows.


  • The last time Tool was in town also happened to be a holiday: July 4, 2007, for Summerfest. Halloween is a much more Tool-like holiday though, evident by the visuals Thursday, which included footage of a vein being pulled out of a person’s neck, an eyeball with tentacles popping out of a cockroach and other freaky scenes.
  • Keenan wasn’t the only one saluting a Wisconsin sports institution. Carey wore a Bucks jersey with his name on it and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s number, 34.
  • Even though it was a Halloween show I’d guess maybe only 10 percent of the crowd came in costume. Among the outfits: Jesus, devil, teddy bear, inmate, unicorn, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, a hot dog, Waldo, Wayne Campbell. My favorite were the guys dressed as skinless bodies, a likely nod to the album art of Tool’s “Lateralus” album.
  • Thursday’s show also had a no camera policy — which was made abundantly clear, from pre-show announcements (made in a menacing voice), posters, digital screens, even on small cards placed on the aisle seat of every row. Violators, the messaging made clear, would be removed from the arena. Aside from one brave guy who grabbed a couple 30 second clips, I didn’t see anyone take out their phones — until the very end, when Keenan gave the crowd permission to film “Stinkfist.”
  • Tool chose a very unexpected song for the crowd to make their exit Thursday: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

The Set List

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Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at

Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.

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