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Pop Music Review

Tool Gets Crowd Into a Cathartic Frenzy

March 28, 1998|SANDY MASUO

The most powerful interludes in Tool's music are sparked by collisions between contrasting elements--visceral playing and cerebral songwriting, chaotic energy and controlled execution, rough-shod rock and supple tunefulness.

On Thursday at the Hollywood Palladium, flurries of those opposing forces whipped the packed house, which had already beenpiqued by the Melvins' thunderous opening set, into a cathartic frenzy.

With a sound set-up that actually defied the venue's sometimes troublesome acoustics, the shifting dynamics of the songs hit with full force--from mesmerizing drones to molten eruptions--and the audience responded enthusiastically, chanting old favorites ("Opiate") and new ("Hooker With a Penis") with equal intensity.

Tool has been known to toy with everything from transvestite strippers to body paint once it hits the stage, but the only choreographed moment of the evening elapsed shortly after the opening number, when a "hospital orderly" put front man Maynard James Keenan in a wheelchair, preparing him for some "medical tests."

But before long, the singer, now wearing a hospital gown, was on his feet, contorting with a tortured intensity that reflected boldly the pathos in the music.

Lesser bands might rely on such stage theatrics to make up for a lack of live fortitude, but in this case, it only underscored Tool's mastery of the medium.

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