This was the first time that I saw Tool in concert. I had been a fan of the band since their first release, Opiate. Their second album, Undertow had been release just a few months before this show so the band was still touring smaller venues and clubs.
What I really liked about Tool was the combination of heavy metal and psychedelic rock. It was like Metallica meets Pink Floyd but heavier. And the artwork! Even though we had moved to CDs at this point, their album cover art was awesome. This was a bad I really wanted to see live!
The band was playing at what is now the 9:30 Club. Back then it was an old radio station WUST that was now billed as WUST Music Hall. At that time the 9:30 Club was booking larger shows there.
My good friend Dan and I went to the show with me. It was a cold February night. We found the music hall and parked. We knew it was going to be a large mosh pit so we left our jackets in the car and scurried to the entrance.
The inside of the music hall remind me of a small school gymnasium. The kind with small bleachers that pull out from the wall and the basketball goals that you can raise up using a hand crank. The stage was set up at one end of the hall and it was small. It reminded me of the lower stages at The Brewery and The Fallout Shelter where I saw many hardcore and punk shows back in college.
What’s great about the smaller clubs is that you have a more intimate experience with the performers since you can get close to them and interact more than large stadium or concert hall shows with taller stages.
There was a lot of excitement and anticipation before the band took stage. Tool was a LA band and I had heard of them early only because my friend Jimmy Shoaf was touring with West Coast bands and turned us onto the first Tool disc, Opiate.
Undertow has just come out and it was in heavy rotation in my car and CD player. It was a more refined sound than Opiate. The band’s songwriting had really improved and gone beyond the heavy, speed thrash of the first album. By the time Undertow had come out most of the people in the know had heard of them and were becoming big fans.
I love Undertow as it’s a great example of a second album where the band is more comfortable and can really hone their sound. The other interesting aspect of Tool at this time was their videos. Their album cover art was awesome to say the least. But with the release of Undertow was also the release of their first video for Sober. It was stop motion video of a weird little man and was different than anything I had seen before.
A few months later I learned from Jimmy that the guitarist was a designer and had done all the artwork and video graphics, which made me respect the band even more. I’m a huge fan of groups that not only create a new sound but also craft their visual performance wether it be live or rehearsed.
I wish I could remember the setlist and after researching I could only find what may be a typical setlist for this leg of the tour. Nonetheless the band came out and performed an incredible show. Dan and I were moshing it up in the pit and slamming out to the hard driving guitars and drums. Maynard did his incredible vocals and stage performance that really got the crowd into it.
- Cold and Ugly
- Prison Sex
After the show Dan and I were a bit drenched in sweat. The music hall had gotten steamy over the past few hours of music and moshing. At this point we were glad that we left our heavy coats in the car but knew how cold it was outside so we braced for the deep freeze and sprinted for the car. We drove back to Northern Virginia cranking up Tool and talking about what an incredible friggin show we had just seen.