Tool's Maynard James Keenan admits to unwittingly performing shows with COVID

Maynard James Keenan
(Image credit: Joe Rogan/YouTube)

Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan has admitted playing two live shows while infected with the COVID-19 virus. The shows took place at the 12,000-capacity Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, on February 28 and 29 this year.

Keenan made the revelation on the Joe Rogan podcast, claiming that a doctor had given him the all-clear to perform despite having lost his sense of taste the night before the band was due to fly from Australia to New Zealand to perform the two shows.

"I was just drinking water, hot showers, taking care of myself, hot tea, just trying to get through it and it sucked," says Keenan. "But you didn't know yet how bad this thing could have been. If I'd have known how bad it could have been I would have been freaking out."

The band adjusted the set to remove "the hard ones" so Keenan could perform, playing a nine-song main set each night instead of the 11 the band had performed at the previous show in Melbourne.

Keenan wasn't tested for the virus in New Zealand because the doctor deemed it unnecessary, but was diagnosed with the virus after flying on to Hawaii, and has been suffering side effects ever since.

"I still have the cough," he tells Rogan. "So whatever cough I had, whatever cough I got in New Zealand, like every other day, I'll have a coughing fit for, you know, for 10 minutes, coughing up stuff, so I have lung damage from it still."

The first person to be confirmed with COVID in New Zealand did so on the afternoon of the first show, when a resident returning from Iran returned a positive diagnosis, while the fourth was a Tool fan who attended the first show and later tested positive. 

Earlier this month Keenan, who says he's lost "a few family members" to the illness, told the AZ Central website about his battle with COVID. "It was ugly," he said. "I survived it, but it wasn’t pretty."

“My lungs are still damaged at the tips. And I just got over the inflammation that was going on with my wrist and hands. I had an autoimmune attack on my system in the form of, like, a rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, from what I understand, it attacks weird spots and it’s random. So that’s what I got.”

Keenan also offered some strong thoughts for the “ridiculous” sceptics and contrarians who believe that wearing a face mask during a global pandemic is an affront to their civil liberties.

“It’s just an absurdity,” he says. “We wear seatbelts. We don’t smoke in trains, planes or taxis anymore, or even restaurants. There’s reasons for those things. I feel like there’s this twist on the idea of personal freedom where somehow freedom is you being able to walk into anybody’s house and take a dump on their meal or shout ugly things at their grandma. That’s not what freedom is. 

"Freedom is the ability to pursue your lifestyle, pursue what you want to do for your family, for your future, what education you want to get. And with that freedom comes a responsibility to look out for yourself, for your neighbour, for your family, for everybody. So there are some compromises that come along with freedom. I'm not sure why that's so difficult to grasp."

Puscifer’s Existential Reckoning album is out this Friday via Alchemy Recordings/Puscifer Entertainment/BMG. It’s available to pre-order now. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.