Written by Emilee Lindner • Photography by Sachyn Mital • June 5, 2017
Governors Ball got darker on Day 3 (June 4). Up til then, the New York festival was blessed with gorgeous weather, light streaming down on a bunch of sunny-faced music-lovers, who skipped arm-in-arm to each set like the free spirits that they were. On Sunday, ominous clouds rolled in. The booty shorts were gone, replaced by ponchos, and the mood seemed appropriate for that night's headliner. Hoards of black T-shirts strolled onto Randall's Island. You knew who they were there to see because it was blatantly emblazoned on their chests: Tool.
Ironically, though, the clouds parted for Tool's festival-ending set, their first New York show in 11 years. Clouds gone, the waxing moon beamed down on the die-hard fans who had been waiting at the front of the main stage for hours. But just because the sky was finally getting some face time on Sunday didn't mean that Tool was going to let up on their dark side. The band took the stage with their newer logo, a heptagram, lit up behind them and lasers burning double helixes into the speakers.
When we talk of darkness, there's no one who knew it better at Gov Ball than Tool's frontman, Maynard James Keenan. The singer was nowhere near the front of the stage. Instead, he placed himself in the back, behind the guitars and next to the drums, without a spotlight. Fans could only make out a silhouette of the man. No cameras were present either, but even without an image of the band performing on big screens, you could feel their presence.
Instead, horrific images of a CGI-created skinless man -- muscles and bones showing -- floated on the screens. Eyeballs multplied in number, covering the visuals. At one point, there were images of two demonic humans, walking on all fours like the stuff of demented nightmares.
The music matched -- an epic drumset with a giant gong attached chugged out the abnormal time signatures, and the guitars growled out a melody that had fans going wild. There was headbanging, and a whole lot of tabacco smoke. But despite what some might have expected, Tool did not bring any new tunes to Gov Ball -- not even "Descending," a song they've yet to record after playing it at their recent live shows. Their set only included fan favorites and the hits (yes, "Schism" was played). And this was just fine with fans.
Keenan also continued his comments on the political climate, which he began at Boston Calling last weekend when he called out "whining, entitled snowflake assholes" and declared his support for law enforcement and the military (Keenan once served in the Army). "I've got good news and bad news," he told the crowd at Gov Ball.
"Fox News, Huffington Post, Trump, Breitbart. None of these things are your enemy. Your enemy is ignorance," he said. "That's the fight. If you disagree with that, this next song's for you." Tool then launched into 1992's "Opiate," which as the opening lyric: "Choices always were a problem for you."
After the song, he continued, "Here's the other part -- the good news and the bad news. It's all gonna work out. Or not. Good luck."
Screams were muddled, but the focus was on the music anyway. The set only included 11 songs, but Tool made those 11 worth it. From 1996's "Ænema" and “Stinkfist” to "Jambi" and "Vicarious" (both from 2006, the last time Tool put out new music), they delivered songs from their decades-long catalog. And while non-Tool fans might not have known what they were getting into, the show was exactly what die-hards signed up for.
Tool's tour rolls on through the summer. See LiveNation.com for dates and ticket information.
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