Concert review: Tool celebrated Halloween at Xcel Energy Center with an evening of heavy tunes

There’s something quite appropriate about seeing long-running art metal band Tool on Halloween. Tuesday night, the foursome filled St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center with a series of lengthy, dark and heavy songs delivered with an impressive ferocity from a band that released their debut album 30 years ago.

Then again, Tool is not like most bands. They exist in their own world and take exacting care on everything from their songs to their record sleeves to their live performances. They’re released a mere five albums over the past three decades, each denser and more intricate than the last.

In concert, they perform under dim, or sometimes absent, spotlights, with lead singer Maynard James Keenan acting as a sort of anti-frontman who is far more comfortable hanging out in the shadows by drummer Danny Carey. Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor stand up front, but don’t do much beyond standing there and playing their instruments.

But Tool makes it work and, once again, they played a wholly engaging show that was easy to get lost in, both in the powerful songs and the trippy visuals. Each song is accompanied by dazzling (and sometimes disturbing) visuals displayed on multiple screens behind the band along with an impressive number of lights and lasers. (More than a few fans indulged in newly legal weed during the concert.)

Tuesday’s set featured eight songs Tool also played at Target Center in March 2022, but it still felt like a distinct and possibly darker show. Tool built the night around their most recent album, 2019’s Grammy-winning “Fear Inoculum,” with a seven-number main set followed by an intermission and four more tracks to close out the show.

Throughout, the band was as dialed in as ever, with Jones coaxing an astonishing variety of noises from his six string. While lengthy drum solos are usually a bore, Carey offered a highlight of the evening with “Chocolate Chip Trip,” an intoxicating blend of live drums, loops, synths and the occasional gong. (The title was inspired by the home-baked chocolate chip cookies served in the studio where Tool recorded.)

As for Keenan, who turns 60 in April, he brought the appropriate heft and menace to the likes of “Jambi,” “Descending” and “The Grudge.” But he also got the chance to explore a more vulnerable side of his voice during “Culling Voices,” an epic number that starts out tender (tender for Tool, anyway) and builds into a massive wall of sound.

Tool completed their recording contract with “Fear Inoculum,” and it’ll be interesting to see where they go without label interference as they enter their fourth decade of making music together.

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