We here at Metal Hammer aren’t of the opinion that rock stars should have carte blanche to do whatever they like, but it’s definitely true that we do occasionally long for the day when going to see a band came with an element of unpredictability.
One moment that has become the stuff of legend came when prog-metal masters Tool visited the UK to promote their second album Aenima on February 23, 1997. Although the band had already built up a sizeable following after the success of 1994’s Undertow album, they really began to flex their creative muscles with Aenima. This was where Tool’s now trademark slow building and epic compositions became more commonplace, songs like Third Eye or Eulogy tapping into their love of 60’s psychedelia and 70s prog far more than their grunge influenced contemporaries.
So, when they rolled into London that night to headline the much-missed Astoria theatre, they came with a set that was far more challenging than many older fans might have expected. The lack of instant thrills and mosh pit bangers appeared to be too much for one young gentleman, who decided it would be a good idea to interrupt Tool shamanic musings by jumping up onto the stage and dancing around with his arms in the air in the middle of a still bubbling version of Aenima track Pushit.
With clearly no ability to read the room and ascertain that these deeply serious musos reall didn’t need their own Bez, the young man approached vocalist and jiu-jitsu expert Maynard James Keenan, who promptly used his martial arts skills to flip the invader over, pin him to the ground and sit on him, impressively, without missing a beat in the song.
“It was my stage,” Maynard told podcaster Joe Rogan when asked about the incident in 2012. “I wrapped the chord around his neck and had a little slack so I could control him: ‘I don’t know what you’re doing up there.’”
And that’s where the intruder remained for the remainder of the song, face down on the Astoria stage, while a half-naked Maynard convulsed, gyrated and wailed atop him. As Pushit climaxes, Keenan finally lets his capture loose and the young man, who has now been laid out for a good ten minutes, wearily stands up and is led offstage by a roadie, looking a little confused and massively jaded by his run in with Maynard.
The incident lead to a flood rumours that soon swept around the music scene, in a pre-internet age there were all manner of Chinese whispers of what actually happened, ranging from the accurate to the absurd suggestion that Keenan had beaten the man and knocked him unconscious. It all added to the mythos of Tool and gave the band an air of ultimate outsiders, a collective that were alien in their approach to the rest of the music world around them.
These days getting to see Tool at all is something of an achievement, and it would usually be in front of tens of thousands of people if you did, so, as uncomfortable and humiliating it must have been for that stage invader, getting such a, ahem, personal performance from the band is quite a legacy for his ill-advised antics. And if you think this is something that couldn’t or wouldn’t be repeated in today’s climate then Keenan has been quick to let people know that he hasn’t altered his approach to stage invaders one iota “You’re getting knocked out,” he said when asked if how he would react today. “After Dimebag you can’t be too careful. I got two words for you; John Lennon.”.