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TOOL/KING CRIMSON @ WILTERN THEATRE AUGUST 13

BY KURT ORZECK

While the rest of the rock world bemoans its unappetizing state, Tool has continued to defy all logic with an exponentially growing base of foam-mouthed fans, stellar sales and even critical acclaim. (Their latest masterpiece, Lateralus, clinched the #1 spot during its first week of release and has already sold a million-plus copies.) The invincible act proved its robustness once again at the Wiltern Theatre – a surprisingly intimate venue for a band that has bloomed to such a grand scale – at a pair of gigs August 13 and 14.

Fans gripped their tickets outside the Wiltern like Charlie & Co. outside the Chocolate Factory – but at $57 a pop, the passes were hardly chocolate bar cheap. Unified in their white-hot love for Tool, the demographic was, interestingly enough, of a varied sort: Hell’s Angels mixed with black-haired young women, Billabong tees blended with DKNYs. All came together as one to worship the dark, abstract church that is Tool.

However, the hoopla was set on pause as the opening act, prog forefathers King Crimson, unraveled complex guitar patterns and hookless threads to an unfazed audience. Lead guitarist Adrian Belew alternately shook and smacked his axe, but remained otherwise stationary onstage, rarely taking to the mic and often grinning as his fingers danced with technically astuteness. While Tool fans’ faith may know no bounds, accessing the vitality of a band Tool claims as its ancestor was a difficult task; not till Tool skin-slapper Danny Carey took behind the drum kit for the final Crimson number did the place start to spew with cheer.

Tool’s set, compared with King Crimson’s, was a mesmerizing multi-media extravaganza – massive screens projected assorted computer-generated images of convulsing beings, human dementia and horrific alien forms. Especially during the "Disposition"-"Reflection"-"Triad" trilogy off Lateralus, the Tool stage presence echoed with more Pink Floyd than Crimson, the airborne images providing great fodder for fixation when the motionless musicians below lacked it. Multi-colored lights blasted and soft rings of yellow fell upon Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor, but left a Nosferatu-esque Maynard James Keenan to skulk on a dark platform in the rear. Tool’s performance was also skewed by the Wiltern’s cozy personality; danceless onlookers were bound to spectator status, in their seats experiencing the show as something was happening in front of them, not with them.

The quartet tapped mostly into their fresh Lateralus material, but gratefully treated with older smash hits "Stinkfist," "Prison Sex" and the resilient "Sober." The frenzied audience – which shook the second tier of the Wiltern to the point of near rupture – also chanted along to newer tracks like "The Grudge," "Parabola" and "Schism," as if the had tunes had populated their CD collections for the past five years.

Keenan lurked in the backdrop throughout the show, his face cloaked by shadows and body bent like a scoliosis-plagued kid. The ultimate anti-frontman, however, did have a few words to share throughout the evening. "We’re going to keep going against all odds," he said after "The Patient," ragging on his hometown of "liars" and "thieves." But Keenan had more optimistic words at the night’s finish, bright advice that counterbalanced the evening’s viscerally moribund character: "Remember this experience," he said. "Take it home with you and in the upcoming weeks, do something positive with it." Sound advice from a man who, at this point in time, probably has more allegiance amongst young people than does the American flag.

TOOL/KING CRIMSON @ WILTERN THEATRE AUGUST 13

BY KURT ORZECK

While the rest of the rock world bemoans its unappetizing state, Tool has continued to defy all logic with an exponentially growing base of foam-mouthed fans, stellar sales and even critical acclaim. (Their latest masterpiece, Lateralus, clinched the #1 spot during its first week of release and has already sold a million-plus copies.) The invincible act proved its robustness once again at the Wiltern Theatre – a surprisingly intimate venue for a band that has bloomed to such a grand scale – at a pair of gigs August 13 and 14.

Fans gripped their tickets outside the Wiltern like Charlie & Co. outside the Chocolate Factory – but at $57 a pop, the passes were hardly chocolate bar cheap. Unified in their white-hot love for Tool, the demographic was, interestingly enough, of a varied sort: Hell’s Angels mixed with black-haired young women, Billabong tees blended with DKNYs. All came together as one to worship the dark, abstract church that is Tool.

However, the hoopla was set on pause as the opening act, prog forefathers King Crimson, unraveled complex guitar patterns and hookless threads to an unfazed audience. Lead guitarist Adrian Belew alternately shook and smacked his axe, but remained otherwise stationary onstage, rarely taking to the mic and often grinning as his fingers danced with technically astuteness. While Tool fans’ faith may know no bounds, accessing the vitality of a band Tool claims as its ancestor was a difficult task; not till Tool skin-slapper Danny Carey took behind the drum kit for the final Crimson number did the place start to spew with cheer.

Tool’s set, compared with King Crimson’s, was a mesmerizing multi-media extravaganza – massive screens projected assorted computer-generated images of convulsing beings, human dementia and horrific alien forms. Especially during the "Disposition"-"Reflection"-"Triad" trilogy off Lateralus, the Tool stage presence echoed with more Pink Floyd than Crimson, the airborne images providing great fodder for fixation when the motionless musicians below lacked it. Multi-colored lights blasted and soft rings of yellow fell upon Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor, but left a Nosferatu-esque Maynard James Keenan to skulk on a dark platform in the rear. Tool’s performance was also skewed by the Wiltern’s cozy personality; danceless onlookers were bound to spectator status, in their seats experiencing the show as something was happening in front of them, not with them.

The quartet tapped mostly into their fresh Lateralus material, but gratefully treated with older smash hits "Stinkfist," "Prison Sex" and the resilient "Sober." The frenzied audience – which shook the second tier of the Wiltern to the point of near rupture – also chanted along to newer tracks like "The Grudge," "Parabola" and "Schism," as if the had tunes had populated their CD collections for the past five years.

Keenan lurked in the backdrop throughout the show, his face cloaked by shadows and body bent like a scoliosis-plagued kid. The ultimate anti-frontman, however, did have a few words to share throughout the evening. "We’re going to keep going against all odds," he said after "The Patient," ragging on his hometown of "liars" and "thieves." But Keenan had more optimistic words at the night’s finish, bright advice that counterbalanced the evening’s viscerally moribund character: "Remember this experience," he said. "Take it home with you and in the upcoming weeks, do something positive with it." Sound advice from a man who, at this point in time, probably has more allegiance amongst young people than does the American flag.