LIVE: Tool and Steel Beans at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York

Written by: Roman Jones

Photo: Chris Besaw


Between the shower, the kitchen and the car I somehow mixed up daylight savings time arriving at the venue one hour earlier than I was supposed to. That mental hiccup was damn confusing but it paled in comparison to the awesome mind screw of Tool’s performance in front of a crowded audience on Monday November 6, 2023.

West coast rocker Steel Beans kicked things off. It was interesting. The one man band consisting of Jeremy DeBardi was like a cross between a stripped down Black Keys and the ghost of Svengoolie. DeBardi’s first few songs sounded right on and it would have been good to hear more but being in a group of photographers we were escorted out of the pit to wait in the lobby for the main attraction. For the next wave of one man bands, I want to see three of those dudes in a power trio so they can sound like nine guys.

Tool started up with “Fear Inoculum” and just jumped out the gate with sound and color. A Tool show feels like an alien invasion masquerading as a concert.  Band leader Maynard James Keenan was otherworldly and hardly the front man as he stayed in the back plugging himself in as an instrument to the bass, guitar, and drums lineup. Throughout the evening, Keenan had an imp like presence that was reminiscent of the William Shatner episode of Twilight Zone. The complimentary prowess of Keenan’s band mates guitarist Adam Jones, drummer Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor on bass also generated more energy than any other four-piece band would allow. Overall, the music was very distinctive being both hypnotic and droning similar to Rush in terms of being a band that does its own thing except that Rush doesn’t give you a sense that your soul might get abducted afterwards and boarded onto a UFO. In that way it would be difficult to imagine a band like Tool who exists in its own universe being able to cover any other bands material and pulling it off (the band has in the past covered at least one known song Led  Zeppelin’s “No Quarter’). But creating an out of this world immersive concert experience is what this band does best. For example, the sheer velocity of the band’s space lasers did stuff that I never saw before and the visuals on a gigantic video screen which morphed from a volcano spewing lava to numerous spooky things most likely left concert goers processing this show for days.


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