Melbourne’s sports and entertainment precinct was full to overflowing as Tool finally returned for the first of two sold out shows. Meanwhile, and with a similar start time, Elton John was playing the last local show of his Australian tour nearby.

Words and photo: Craig Johnstone

This made for an excellent game of “punter spotting” before the gig, so we were off to a flying start. It was obvious, from attire alone, exactly who was attending which gig.

The long, six year wait for another Melbourne Tool gig created an atmosphere that not many others in the industry can replicate. Tool’s hand-selected support for the night was solo artist Author & Punisher, aka Tristan Shone, who hails from San Diego. Shone played his industrial beats and heavy drone sounds to the minority of the ticketed crowd, as most seemed to be queuing for another beer or the much needed opportunity to update over-stretched and faded tour t-shirts. Those who did take to their seat or standing position early wouldn’t have been disappointed though. Shone delivered an amazing wall of sound for one human alone, playing his vast array of what appeared to be DIY improvised metal music machines that warned that they may or may not “kill fascists”. Truly, something to behold.

Enter Tool, kicking off with the title track of their latest release, Fear Inoculum. From here they wasted no time belting into Ænema, and the crowd was certainly provided with a return on the energy that was being passed back and forth across the pit. A clear, almost bead-like curtain surrounded the stage early (it was drawn back mid-show) and provided the ideal canvas for the two-plus hours of visual and brutal musical delight to come.

Drummer Danny Carey was the centre of attention, the only member of the Los Angeles-based four piece whose lighting seemed to be somewhat near constant. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s voice menaced over the top of the meticulous bass of Justin Chancellor and the guitar of Adam Jones for the duration of the gig.

Maynard prefers to reside in the shadows, squatting and leering towards the crowd most of the time while the extended drum and guitar interludes take place, silhouetted against the equally entrancing video projections and laser show. Maynard’s beckoning, impassioned and soaring vocals drawing the crowd back in time and time again.

Maynard’s crowd interactions include the standard Melbourne v Sydney cliche and an interesting tribute to Fletcher from Pennywise. There was also a funny “raise your hands all of the audience members who are under the age of 30” call, before the bizarre reminder that they “weren’t even sperm when we wrote this song.”

The immersive show was made all the more intense by a ban on the use of mobile phones throughout the show until post intermission (and gong solo), Maynard requested for security to “stand down” during the distinct crowd favourite Stinkfist.

Tonight capped a long and well-rewarded wait for the dedicated Tool fans of Melbourne.

Check out our gallery from the night here.

Tool at JB Hi-Fi.