|Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool performs at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., on July 7, 2010. (Jason Franson/QMI Agency file photo)
Since their last appearance Toronto show back in 2009 at Molson Amphitheatre, Tool have talked about and are reportedly working on a new studio album.
The Los Angeles alternative, prog-rock quartet have yet to release anything new since 2006 but have appeased fans with strong shows generally based around 10 to 12 songs, a handful of which stretch out to nearly 10 minutes.
And although slightly tinkering with their set on this latest tour which touched down Wednesday night at a nearly sold-out Air Canada Centre, Tool and its loyal fan base basically believe if it's not broke don't fix it.
Judging by the 11 songs over 100 minutes and change, they're onto something.
Led by the mohawk-sporting Maynard James Keenan – a singer who splits his time between Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer when not sporadically resembling a crazed Tai Chi instructor onstage – Tool dug deep for an impressive, exhausting show that melded progressive, hard and psychedelic rock quite well. Perhaps more jaw-dropping was the drumming of Danny Carey who at 50 could give Rush's Neil Peart a run for his money.
With plenty of movable video screens (including using the centre ice scoreboard), lights and the occasional Pink Floyd-ish lasers Tool commenced with the shorter, biting Hooker With A Penis as Keenan paced around his mini-riser to Carey's right.
“Thank you, good night!” Keenan quipped after song one, later adding they would be playing some material that hadn't been played in years which drew a loud reaction.
After settling in on Jambi with guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor hitting their stride, Tool's first highlight was Stinkfist, a plodding, heavy offering that is as close to radio-friendly as they might ever get.
Perhaps the highlight of the night, aside from the memorable fills, rolls and solos Carey continually dazzled with was during Lateralus, on which Carey had some assistance. A smaller kit was set up by labcoat-wearing roadies centre stage, giving the impression Tool could be going “unplugged” for a song or two. However another drummer appeared, resulting in an intense several minutes with both Carey and “Chris” complementing and one-upping the other simultaneously. “Who won?” Keenan asked to close the duelling drums portion. Without question a draw the most appropriate answer.
Following a lengthy interlude that provided an encore-like rest (and two roadies playing Asteroids on the large video screen), Tool emerged for two more offerings. Parabola from 2001's Lateralus album was an intense, guitar-driven odyssey before Aenema closed things out, one of five songs from 1996's Aenima album the group played on this night. Here lights, stunning visuals and the hard-hitting combination of Jones and Carey put an large exclamation point on the night.
To take a line from one of their warhorses Schism, the four pieces that make up Tool still fit. Perfectly.