"Even if Tool were to play six nights a week, every week they'd still offer one of metal's most unique live experiences." Tool's 2024 setlist is a prog metal masterclass with cosmic visuals to match

Tool return to the UK for the second time this decade for a masterclass in mind-boggling imagery and prog instrumentals

Maynard James Keenan Tool tour 2024
(Image: © Scott Moran)

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Bands like Tool don't come along every day. In fact, if you were a UK fan after 2007, the band didn't particularly come round at all, the band not visiting this side of the Atlantic for 12 years, playing their first show back at the 2019 Download Festival. Since then, we've had a new album and this marks their second full headline tour since 2019's Fear Inoculum. But does familiarity truly breed contempt? 

Of course it doesn't. Almost 20 years since they made the leap from alt metal agitators to cosmic prog metal masters, Tool are a reliably potent and otherworldly force live. Notices put up around Birmingham's Resorts World Arena state a by-now common rule: no cell phones, no cameras, no exceptions. 

It all adds to the disconnect the band curate. Mind-boggling pyschedelic imagery is complemented with a full bells-and-whistles lightshow, kaleidoscopic beams casting a hazy colourful spectrum that looks like you're watching the show behind a few too many truffles in an Amsterdam cafe. Laser shows play out across the rafters in a blitz of colour and shape, while even the lighting rigs take on the shape and appearance of some extraterrestrial craft. 

It's all very appropriate for the set Tool are playing this time around. Fear Inoculum still dominates, of course - you don't spend 13 years writing a record to dump it after the first tour. But where their 2022 outing was cut through with radio hits - or what passes for radio for a band like Tool, anyway - like Hooker With A Penis or Sober, this time out Tool are going full Prog. 

Stuttering riffs mark opener Jambi and Tool settle into a groove early on, meditative instrumentals giving way to bursts of energy like some colossal combustion engine starting up. On the likes of Fear Inoculum and Pneuma, the instrumentals verge on tantric, Maynard James Keenan's voice drifting atop tribal-style beats that lend everything a spiritual air. 

This is still a metal show, though. Rosetta Stoned bursts forth in a rapid flow of paranoid mutterings, Maynard's shrieks of "holy fucking shit" coinciding with rigs that descend from the rafters like satellites, while Intolerance captures the snotty, punkish energy of their early releases even amidst the slow burn of prog instrumentals. 

A mid-set interval offers a quick chance to indulge earthly pursuits, but Tool are very much still in the midst of their exploration of the cosmos, returning to Chocolate Chip Trip. Admittedly it's a move with mixed results; Danny Carey is indisputably one of the greatest metal drummers on the planet, but whether they're in a gyroscope surrounded by flames, strapped into a rollercoaster or playing amidst a techno-frenzy, a drum solo is still a fucking drum solo.

Thankfully, Tool aren't about to deny us a big finish. A confetti rain for Flood tees up the final run of Invincible and alt metal anthem Stinkfist, a headbanging epic that sees Maynard finally address the crowd.

"Thank you so much for your patience," he starts. "Thank you for taking this journey with us. You can now take out your stupid cellphones," he adds jokingly. Naturally, the crowd oblige. 

While it's anyone's guess when Tool when next be back in the UK after this - hopefully with a new album in tow, if this year's Metal Hammer cover is anything to go by - the fact remains that even if Tool were to play six nights a week, every week they'd still offer one of metal's most unique and iconoclastic live experiences. We wouldn't miss it for the world. 


Tool: Resorts World Arena Birmingham setlist - June 30 2024

Jambi
Fear Inoculum
Rosetta Stoned
Pneuma
Intolerance
Descending
The Grudge
Chocolate Chip Trip
Flood
Invincible
Stinkfist

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.