I was satisfied with Isis—more than satisfied, even. The hard and heavy attack of three guitars was expected, but I was caught off guard when it started to mutate into jazzy, exploratory parts, with a keyboard providing background atmospherics. In cavernous GM Place, the result was a maelstrom of shifting textures, which incorporated the vocals as a textural element (no specific lyrics could be made out) and was strangely compelling. I enjoyed these subtler aspects, while the biggest crowd approval came when the songs erupted into abrasive, punishing climaxes.
If Isis met with only a lukewarm reception, every aspect of Tool’s performance was greeted with rapturous devotion. The diehard fanbase which made up most of the crowd raised the energy level to a breaking point even before the band took the stage: the unveiling of Danny Carey’s massive drum setup prompted a round of cheers and applause.Tool’s trademark combination of deep mysticism and crude humour was on display right from the start, when Maynard James Keenan issued a friendly greeting of “Hello, dickheads!” The mysticism was more apparent in the nature of the plain stage setup: draped in white, with amps stationed in the background near a similarly white backdrop. But after the lurching opener “Stinkfist” faded out, psychedelic projections illuminated the stage’s purpose as a mere screen for the concert’s companion visuals. Images of DNA molecules whirled around during “Forty Six & 2”; later on, a montage of star charts and other paranormal material accompanied “Rosetta Stoned,” an epic tale of being abducted by aliens, but forgetting to bring a pen to write down their message.
Every track was played out to perfection, whether fairly straightforward (“Sober,” preceded by a frenzied drum solo and wall of noise) or more intricate (“Schism,” with its jilted time signatures). Maynard was surprisingly physical on stage, stomping in circles, leaning into his screams, or playing with his cowboy hat. “Lateralis” was a spiralling nine-minute journey, after which the band reposed on stage and soaked in the roars of the crowd. They then rose for an encore of fever-pitch intensity: “Vicarious” and “Aenema” were never so powerful, and the Tool fans of Vancouver were never so complete in their worship.