By Tyler Hersko

Euphoric.

Transcendent.

Monolithic.

In a society that goes straight to the top shelf with its words, such descriptors tend to get casually thrown around. However, if there ever a band that could perfectly encapsulate such evocative adjectives, it would have to be Tool.

Since their inception in 1990, the seminal Los Angeles-based quartet have garnered nigh unmatched critical and commercial acclaim. Tool is the rare type of band that manages to not only defy genre stereotypes but also push the boundaries of what music can be.

While the three-time Grammy Award winner‘s output could be rather simply described as a mixture of progressive rock and heavy metal, Tool’s music is firmly rooted in a realm unlike any other band currently performing today.

Despite their fierce insistence on privacy, the legendary rockers’ intricate and unorthodox live performances and endlessly contemplative lyrics have propelled Tool into international stardom. Amid the unending rumors of a long-awaited fifth album, the band quietly announced a string of tour dates. Fans had an opportunity to witness Tool’s work firsthand at the Reno Events Center last Sunday.

What followed was not so much a concert as it was an ascension into a world of musical self-discovery. While longtime fans may have been treated to few surprises — the setlist was largely dominated by the band’s biggest hits such as “Vicarious” and “Stinkfist” — Tool’s seemingly brief two-hour performance was undoubtedly one of Reno’s most impactful rock performances in recent memory.

Fan-favorite opener “Third Eye,” with its bevy of laid-back guitar riffs and relaxed vocals contrasted by extended sections of crushing dissonance, immediately set the mood. While the band largely stayed away from the raw metallic insanity of its heavier tracks, such as “Ticks & Leeches,” the relative lack of headbanging allowed for the subtle nuances of Tool’s lengthy compositions to truly shine through.

The 10 performed songs, several of which were subject to extended jam sessions, managed to convey a spectrum of lyrical themes and musical ideas that most bands fail to muster in entire discographies.

Whether accentuating the start-stop heaviness of “Vicarious” or supplementing the incredible instrumental sections of “Lateralus,” the sprawling videos and expansive lighting that the band’s concerts are known for were the show’s undeniable centerpieces.

As is customary for Tool, the largely darkened performance stage was overshadowed by a thrilling light show and a handful of large screens projecting a sprawling series of looped visual clips largely disjointed from the music. Despite not being tied to any specific song, the videos, which featured all sorts of indiscernible psychedelia, served as a perfect gateway into Tool’s enigmatic realm of musical self-expression.

tool  alecperkins

photo courtesy of alecperkins / Flickr.com
Tool’s indescribably enticing video clips and dazzling lighting effects were the perfect supplement to the band’s eclectic music. The result was a truly ethereal performance wholly unlike any other rock concert. The Reno Events Center did not allow The Nevada Sagebrush to take photos of the concert.

Few artists, particularly those representing the heavier genres of music, are able to convey more than the basest of emotions at concerts. Tool’s brief tenure in Reno was that special kind of performance that was able to inspire thoughts of euphoric contentment, passion and self-realization in a way that only live music can.

And just as quickly as it began, it was over. Besides an obligatory “thank you” or two, the band was silent. Two brief intermissions. Ten songs. No encore. Tool was gone.

While the end of the band’s performance was jarring, it only served as proof of Tool’s unmatched ability to engage audiences, regardless of genre preferences, with some of today’s most intensely passionate music.

For those looking for the aural embodiment of introspective and engaging music, Tool is the quintessential band to experience in a live setting.

Tyler Hersko can be reached at thersko@sagebrush.unr.edu.