For starters, there was absolutely nothing simple about it. And though the four musicians in Tool played their heavy, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll, it was much more than your average performance.
Tool let it all out, putting off the woe and worry outside the building for a couple hours while those of us inside the arena were enveloped in intensity and color and thundering music.
The iconic rock band came to CHI Health Center Omaha on Saturday while more than 10,000 fans lost themselves in the music of singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey.
Decked out in a leather jacket, a spiked mohawk, blacked-out eyes and a Joker-like painted-on black smile, Keenan stepped on to a platform above and behind the rest of the band. Unlike your typical frontman who insists on standing in front and being the center of attention, Keenan prowled that platform with the intensity of someone looking for a fight.
And Keenan’s voice rang out from that dais like a beacon piercing through the dark of night.
“Here’s the thing: All that (stuff) will be waiting for us two hours from now. It’s OK to be selfish now and then,” Keenan said. “For the next two hours, it’s just here. It’s just us.”
Tool played 12 songs. And they only needed 12 songs, especially when three of them — Pushit, Fear Inoculum and Invincible — were epics that each lasted more than 10 minutes with ups, downs, time changes, pauses and swells that felt like miniature concerts within the main concert.
Tool is thinking man’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s heavy stuff, and I don’t just mean the tuned down guitars and resounding drums. Tool’s lyrics are weighty stuff that takes multiple listens and benefit from repeated analysis. Then there’s the dense musicality, the interplay between the band’s three instrumentalists always weaving together in new ways.
It wasn’t only a musically intense performance. It was visually incredible. A gossamer curtain enveloped the stage, surrounding the band. Images were projected onto it from all sides — a fiery eye, dancing silhouettes, multicolored kaleidoscopes, three-dimensional fractal geometry — that added an expansive visual dimension to the performance. And it left the band literally immersed in their music.
This was thankfully a no-phone concert. On pain of being removed from the show, no video or photos were allowed. Thank goodness. Every fan in the arena would have pulled out their cell phone to capture the swirling colors, blasts of laser light and rippling shadows, ruining the experience for everyone else.
As the show went on, I found I had lost complete track of time and space. I became completely immersed in Tool’s performance. (And that’s saying something considering how many of these I’ve seen.)
Keenan, Carey, Chancellor and Jones had a fierce intensity about them that they didn’t have when I saw them a few years ago. Perhaps it was a little pent up energy after not being on the road for a couple years.
It was the same for the band’s fans. More than 10,000 of them, most dressed in black, filled the arena, most of their fists in the air and almost all shouting every word.
When Keenan let out an anguished cry of The Grudge” thousands screamed along with him.
It was something to experience, and like Tool’s music in general, I’ll be unpacking that one for a while.
“Omaha. You did pretty good,” Keenan said at the end of the show. “Omaha, thank you very much for coming out.”
For more than a decade, Kevin Coffey has been Omaha's music guy. He's also a journalist, photographer, husband, dad, Mets fan, comic nerd, Dungeon Master and Jays fan. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.