Tool Sells Out the Enterprise Center For An Incredible Performance

Tool is still one of the best rock bands in the world, without a doubt, and this tour has only further codified their place in rock history.

Tool is an alt-rock/prog-metal four piece who rose to popularity in the early 1990’s thanks to their unique sound, bizarre live performances, and a fantastic debut EP called Opiate which came out in 1992. At this time, their sound was heavy, often droning, and far more melodic than the majority of the underground metal in the early nineties. As they progressed, and thanks to the additions of Peach bassist Justin Chancellor and King Crimson producer David Bottrill, Tool took on a more experimental and cutting edge tone which led to massive success and critical acclaim which has continued to this day.

I’ve seen Tool three times, and this was by far the best of the bunch. My first experience came in 2016 at the Chaifetz arena in Saint Louis. It was a smaller tour and Chaifetz is a smaller arena, but the show was fantastic and seeing one of my favorite bands for the first time was a blast. The second came as the headliner and final performance at 2018’s Rock on the Range festival where Tool, though not on tour at the time, brought the house down musically but didn’t quite have the stage set up one would expect from the group. Last night, I saw them for the first time in their peak form, in front of a sold out crowd of about 18,000 roaring fans at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Of course, a giant question looms over any review of a Tool concert in 2019, and so I’ll answer it immediately. Yes, they played new music and it was fantastic. Coming into the show, I’d heard a few shoddy cellphone videos of new tracks like “Descending,” and “Invincible,” but I found myself shocked at the extent to which those videos don’t do these songs justice. The former was brutally heavy, featuring a few of the thickest breakdowns in Tool’s catalog and the latter has an interestingly bright tone and some of the best drum work of Danny Carey’s career. As the intermission before the encore came to an end, the screen went blank and lit back up the word’s “August 30th” written in white, referring to the release date for Tool’s first new LP in 13 years, and having heard these new songs in person, I found myself filled with a brand new excitement like I’ve never felt for an album before.

Beyond new music, all four members of the band gave simply incredible performances on a litany of Tool’s best hits over their long career. They opened with “Aenima,” which was a perfectly heavy way to kick off the show. Maynard’s cleaner vocal sounded excellent on tracks like “The Pot,” and his screams were gravelly and powerful. Adam Jones’ guitar work on songs like “Jambi,” was thick and impressively fast-handed.

The stars of the night, however, were certainly the drums and bass. Justin Chancellor’s bass line on “Schism,” was as excellent as ever, and throughout the show, he was an absolute ball of energy, swinging his hips like an ape and playing with a deep, rich tone that seemed to shake the walls of the entire arena.

Just behind him, Danny Carey helmed a massive drum kit and proved once again that he is one of the best drummers of all time. From his complex rhythms on “Forty Six & 2” to his explosive playing on “Vicarious,” and “Intolerance,” his playing commanded respect and attention for the entirety of the show. The encore began with an extended drum and synth solo from Danny, alone on stage, which was an extremely welcome break in the action to appreciate one of the most talented musicians to ever pick up a set of sticks.

Highlights of the show included a sprawling, expansive performance of “Parabol/Parabola,” early in the set and the ferocious performance of “Stinkfist,” to close the show. These were made that much better by an awe-inspiring light show which included an array of lasers, a lighted, colorful pentagram which moved about in the background, and a multitude of entrancing videos on cranes behind the band, most of which consisted of Tool’s infamously strange music videos.

All in all, this was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. Nearly 30 years after their debut, to see Tool returning to form in front of a sold out arena is an exhilarating experience. It’s hard to believe that we’re only about three months away from finally hearing the new album and this show left me more excited than ever.

Tool is still one of the best rock bands in the world, without a doubt, and this tour has only further codified their place in rock history.

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Architects and Company Bring Rocking Tour to East Saint Louis

Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

Architects is a metalcore five piece from Brighten, England. They debuted all the way back in 2006 but with their most recent run of albums beginning with 2014’s Lost Forever/Lost Together, they’ve found increasing international success. Their latest LP, Holy Hell released last year at broke the top 100 on the US Billboard chart and spawned a large scale international tour. Their sound mixes the heavier elements of metalcore with fairly melodic choruses, seamlessly transitioning from thundering breakdowns to singable hooks and back again. Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

While She Sleeps kicked off the show with quite an impressive half-hour set. The relatively accomplished British metalcore group brought an almost unrelenting heaviness to their entire performance and frontman Lawrence Taylor was able to bring the energy within the venue to a fever pitch. All of this was accomplished, notwithstanding quite a few setbacks. Of course, it’s never easy to be the opening act and the crowd was still filtering in at the beginning of the set and beyond this, they were also confined to only about a third of stage thanks to the gear of the following acts. Regardless, While She Sleeps gave quite a performance and set a very high bar.

Up next came Thy Art is Murder, the Australian deathcore band who were quite a bit heavier than either of the other groups sharing the bill. With this reputation already well known, the group absolutely brought the power from their first track. Lead vocalist, Chris McMahon took the stage in a hooded cloak which, along with his long beard and hair and growling voice made for a horrifying, yet entertaining opening. The tracks, admittedly, bled together a bit, but the crowd was electric by this point and thanks to some incredible rhythms from new drummer Jesse Beahler and some fantastic guitar solos from Andy Marsh. Thy Art is Murder played for about an hour and by the time they closed, my ears were ringing and the crowd was more than ready for the headliner.

Architects took the stage at about half past nine to roaring applause and brought even more energy to the stage. Along with the band came an incredible lighting rig which was perfectly programmed. The strobing flood lights and multitude of colors were genuinely mesmerizing and, though I don’t often comment on lighting all that much as its outside my area of expertise, this rig was one of the best I’ve seen in such a small venue.

On top of the staging, the group was extremely impressive musically. Their choruses were melodic and encouraged quite a bit crowd singalongs, and their breakdowns were absolutely brutal. The mix was quite bass heavy throughout all three sets and along with the lighting, this made for a scene that neared sensory overload quite often. Drummer Dan Searle played explosively on a massive kit and frontman Sam Carter’s ability to switch between clean vocals and barbarous screams helps smooth the transitions between their two sounds.

Above all, the highlight of the night was certainly the crowd. For the final two acts, Pop’s was absolutely packed with raucous fans who formed a downright dangerous pit which never seemed to stop growing. Aside from a few stray fights which broke out in the back, the pit was fairly considerate but massive and quite physical.

As the show wrapped up, Sam Carter took a moment to speak candidly about the importance of mental health and reaching out to a professional when dealing with depression and other issues. It was an impressively genuine moment and when it was followed up by an excellent performance of their hit, “Doomsday,” it made for a perfect finish to a great show.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable concert with three impressive acts in a row. While She Sleeps was a pleasant surprise as I hand’t heard a single song before their performance, Thy Art is Murder came incredibly close to stealing the show with a brutal set, and Architects showed once again that they are one of the premier groups in the metalcore genre.

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Jimmy Buffett Brings the Beach to Nashville

The Parrotheads are an extremely welcoming bunch, Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band give an endlessly fun performance, and the overall experience must be seen to be believed.

Jimmy Buffett is a a country singer/songwriter from Pascagoula, Mississippi. He was one of the first artists mix reggae and other tropical elements with classic pop-country song structure, making him a pioneer of the island country sound later adopted by artists like Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown to name a few. His influence on recorded music is often underestimated, but it pales in comparison to his concerts. Buffet is undeniably a legend in the world of live performances. Incredibly, he’s toured every single year since 1976, racking up more than 40 separate tours and amassing an army of dedicated fans known as “Parrotheads.”

The experience of a Jimmy Buffett concert is something that simply must be seen in person. My first experience came last summer in Saint Louis on the “Son of a Son of a Sailor” tour. Buffett took the stage at eight and we arrived around noon to a full parking lot which had been transformed into a full fledged beach, complete with lawn chairs, campers, boats, swimming pools full of sand, and an uncountable number of blenders all hard at work whipping up margaritas. No matter where Buffett goes, he brings the beach with him, and last night in Nashville was no exceptions.

With no opening act, Jimmy took the stage a bit after eight and set to work on a show that lasted close to three hours. I’ve found myself impressed at both concerts by the fantastic pacing of the set list. With nearly 30 studio albums to his name, he has a bit of an advantage in this department, but a Buffett concert never seems to drag despite its length. He drops hits like “Volcano,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” throughout, breaking up the monotony of lesser known tracks, and yet has plenty left in the tank for a strong close with iconic cuts like “Margaritaville,” and “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” 

Even on lesser known tracks, there’s plenty to appreciate. Despite his care-free style and sayings like “I always try to spend your money irresponsibly,” Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band that backs him are absolute professionals. This concert was especially fun because the majority of his instrumentalists are longtime Nashville players. I was particularly impressed by Peter Mayer who covered lead guitar duties and Doyle Grisham on pedal steel guitar. Both are Nashville legends in their own right and gave excellent performances throughout the night. Of course, Robert Greenidge’s steel pan drumming is also invaluable, as he is one of the top players in the world and his solo in the middle of the show was excellent.

All this being said, the highlight of the show is the man himself, Jimmy Buffett. From the opening moments of the show, the 72 year old icon is on fire, filled with enjoyable stories and bottomless energy. His voice has held up remarkably well over the 40+ years of touring, though few of the tracks are particularly taxing. Nevertheless, he’s an incredible frontman, and with the aide of longtime partner and country music legend, Mac McAnally, he brings quite the party to the stage and the three hours fly by quickly.

As much as I enjoyed the show, I did notice just a few shortcomings, mainly in the venue. The show was held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, just a few steps from the massive crowd gathered for the final day of the NFL draft, and so there wasn’t the normal pre-show tailgating that Buffett is known for. Additionally, the crowd was much more subdued, and aside from the sea of Hawaiian style shirts, the costumes left quite a bit to be desired, though my group and I were proudly holding it down in light up shark fins, grass hula skirts, and coconut bras. The Saint Louis show certainly captured the atmosphere much better, but I still had a blast and felt that the performance itself was actually quite a bit better.

Ultimately, I can’t overstate how heavily I recommend that any serious music fan attend a Jimmy Buffett concert at least once. Even if you, personally, aren’t a fan of the music, there’s nothing like the traveling beach party that is one of his tours.

The Parrotheads are an extremely welcoming bunch, Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band give an endlessly fun performance, and the overall experience must be seen to be believed.

IDLES Gives Incredible Performance in Nashville on First US Tour

Having experienced this show, I would now comfortably say that IDLES is the best band in rock music today.

     Jack White once said of rock stars, “they get the freedom to have the highest of each emotions.” On September 28th in Nashville, IDLES brought that description to life in a fascinating way.

   The openers, a post-punk outfit called Bambara, gave quite a performance to kick off the night. The group’s lead singer lurked to and fro across the front of the stage with an almost Morrison-esque energy as the lead guitarist brutally beat his instrument off of speakers, pillars, and the ground, creating very unique tones that fit shockingly well with the band’s atmosphere. The set ran about an hour long, and was consistently loud, driving, and exciting, which is all one can ask of an opener.

IMG_1383   After a quick turnover, IDLES took the stage, though most of them her already there helping their crew put finishing touches on their stage set. They chose “Colossus” as an opener, an excellent choice as the driving rhythm and low timbre made for an ominous start. I was standing in the front row of the nice, but rather cramped High Watt in Nashville, and it was during the explosive final seconds of this song that this fact became relevant as I was rocked and shoved all about by the fantastic crowd.

   The bulk of the set was taken from the their recent project, Joy as an Act of Resistance, my favorite album of 2018 so far, with a few notable exceptions. The first of these was “Mother,” which was brutal, loud, and singable all at once, as were later call backs to 2017’s Brutalism, “Heel/Heal,” “1049 Gotho,” and the best of all “Well Done,” which fell near the end. While Joy is certainly the better album and it’s topics are so prescient, there is something so quintessentially punk about those older tracks which makes them musts for any set the band plays.

   While most of the show was raucous and loud, the group did slow it down to some extent, especially with “Love Song,” which even elicited a few chuckles with it’s funnier lines while delivering its message of the dangers of masculinity in relationships quite well.

IMG_1379   Aside from song selection, there was much to be appreciated in the group’s performance, and particularly their disregard for traditional concert etiquette. This, of course, began with the decision help the crew with set up and start the show without an official walk out and ended with the lack of an encore, which was replaced with a long track in which the group pulled crowd members on stage and allowed them to play the instruments. In the following and final song, each band member walked off the stage one by one leaving a ringing distortion behind.

   Between these examples, lead guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kierman very nearly stole the show from their frontman as the former bounced across the stage mimicking Flamenco dances and kick lines throughout and the latter consistently climbed into the crowd and played much of the show from the center of the moshpit. Near the end of the show, both guitarists left the stage and stood on bars on either side of the venue, dancing and playing as the crowd’s attention was divided between them and the rest of the group on stage.

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   Above all, however, vocalist Joe Talbot’s work at the front of this group can only be described as powerful. His voice was gritty, her screams were brutal, and he moved explosively across the stage all night. He would often toss the microphone behind his back, tugging the XLR cable across his neck like a noose, followed by hugging his bandmates as they played, reaching into the rabid crowd, and even punching himself in the face during a few songs. His performance is evocative of a Johnny Rotten or Kurt Cobain and it served as the perfect centerpiece to a fantastic show.

  Joy as an Act of Resistance is easily one of the most important albums of the year, and I was very fortunate for the opportunity to see this band on this tour. Having experienced this show, I would now comfortably say that IDLES is the best band in rock music today.