I'm not usually one for tribute bands, I'm very fussy about the quality of music and wanting them to sound as close to the originals as possible. There are a select few that I have accepted over the last few years, one of which being Australian Pink Floyd who I will be seeing later this year, however this technically because I can't see the actual band!
So when it was announced that a Tool tribute band would be playing in Fuel in Cardiff, I will admit I was very sceptical. I saw Tool themselves headline Download Festival this year, and it absolutely blew me away. It was the first time they had set foot in the UK since 2006, of course I was far too young to be able to appreciate their music back then and had no idea who they were (I was 6), but in the last year or so had very quickly become one of my favourite, and by far the most intricate and impressive, bands to listen to. Seeing them live came at the exact right time, I had all my best friends around me and we all love the band, and were in awe for the entire set.
For those of you who are unaware of who Tool are, they are arguably the largest Prog band in the world. Known for their polyrhythms, complicated riffs, psychedelic lyricism and confusing fusion of instruments (none of them are playing the same thing and it should not work but it definitely does), they recently released their album 'Fear Inoculum' which it has been speculated will be their last. This was released 13 years after their last album, '10,000 Days' which was released in 2006. Their first album 'Opiate' was released in 1992, at which time they would be playing venues of around 150 capacity, and they are currently on tour with their new album reaching venues with up to 15,000 capacity.
Being such a complex band, seeing such a small venue hold a tribute act for them seemed a little odd, and initially I was unsure about going to see ToolShed for worry that they wouldn't do Tool justice. However, I am extremely glad I decided to check them out, to start with I was just going to hear Tool's songs played live again as Download was so iconic, and by the end I could well have been back there!
One of the quotes from the night was 'you could take a blind person to ToolShed and bar a few minor details they would not be able to tell that it's not Tool'. They were spot on. The drummer, playing the role of Danny Carey, was the one we were most impressed by. Many Tool fans will make jokes about the fact that Danny is some kind of octopus robot genius, and to replicate any of his beats and polyrhythms seems near impossible. But it was done, with finesse and attention to detail.
I personally was also taken aback by the vocalist of ToolShed, who gave the only distinct difference between the band themselves and the tribute. The only giveaway? Maynard James Keenan had been replaced by a female. And she rocked. I can remember being the only girl at the front of the stage in Fuel when they came on, and as soon as she caught my eye she nodded at me. Throughout the show she would occasionally catch my eye and crack a smirk before quickly returning into the character of Maynard and delivering each note and word without a hiccough. The reason this was so meaningful to the both of us was that it is often rare to find many females within this niche genre, particularly one that can recognise and follow a Tool song, let alone a whole catalogue of them. Seeing her be that brave and take on the challenge of filling Maynard's shoes was huge, everyone at the show thought so too, and I really wish I knew her name so I could chase her up on it!
Their setlist was incredible; implementing many of the songs that Tool had played earlier this year, with a few surprises. They didn't play any of the new album, however are planning to in later shows along this tour which I think is very impressive considering how difficult it must be to learn. The biggest surprises (good ones) were the two songs that they decided to close with, both of which are some of Tool's biggest and both of which had not been seen played live by anyone in the room. Their penultimate song was Lateralus, famous for including elements of the Fibonacci sequence within its riffs and lyrical structure. Many of us had been hoping to see Tool play it at Download, however ToolShed definitely did it justice, and the high energy in such a small room was incredible.
When Lateralus ended, the band stated that they usually close with this song but had decided to add another to the end; Right In Two. The song that looks at mankind from God's perspective, and talks about how humans take advantage of their free will by deciding to be reckless and allowing war and technology take over. One of the lines in the song expresses 'Don't these talking monkeys know that Eden has enough to go around?' which refers back to the betrayal of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and how since then mankind have essentially been running themselves into the ground whilst wondering why things are going wrong. Quite a thinker huh? It's one of Tool's best songs (among the majority!) and was delivered perfectly by the tribute band.
I think the best thing about going to this show was being able to have a taste of what Tool themselves were like back in the early 1990s and getting a feel for the atmosphere in a small venue with a low capacity in contrast to watching them headline a festival. There is something about the intimacy in a smaller gig that shows just how much people care about the music, and the superfans of Tool that came to the tribute show absolutely kicked off; the energy was constantly high, every person in the room knew the majority of the words and the order of the beats to most if not all of the songs, which in itself is hard to do. Everyone was just there because they love Tool and wanted to get that experience, and I loved it - would highly recommend!