Tuesday, January 24, 2012. The first half of my day is filled with feelings of anxiety that lead to the annoyance of a constantly upset stomach. Two tickets to Tool are in our car but all I can think of is that the guy I bought them from ripped me off and these reprints or fakes will leave my husband and I out in the cold. Since I turned 18 and began paying for the roof over my head, I had been trying to get Tool tickets. Elusive little things; I’d arrive early to a Ticketmaster location only to be told the tickets were gone in less than 60 seconds, or I’d hop online and be greeted with an apology message rather than the option to choose my seats. This time around, I paid more than double the face value of each ticket through a third-party ticket exchange service; there’s always the chance this is their last tour and I’m not leaving a Tool concert unchecked on my bucket list.
Two hundred and thirty-one miles lay between our home and the Huntington Center in Toledo. We embarked on what must have been the world’s most uneventful and least scenic road trip, arriving a couple of hours prior to the show to enjoy a couple beers and some great food with family. My initial worries proved to be highly unnecessary as we entered the venue without incident with our obviously valid tickets. After a bit of a wander, we walked onto the arena floor and found our seats; close to center and perhaps fifty feet from the stage. Finally, the only thing standing between me and Tool was a couple opening acts.
As tempting as it is to do the typical review, giving you the set list and describing the lighting, I feel that it wouldn’t do the show justice. I had always heard Tool concerts described as a religious experience, something unlike anything you’ve seen before and a phenomenon no other band can replicate. I was also aware that Maynard would most likely be hiding in the shadows while Danny, Adam, and Justin were shrouded to a lesser degree by the positioning of the lights. As much as I knew about their shows from my husband and various friends, I still felt as though I was walking into this show blind, the only thing I could be sure to expect was mind-blowing music.
I can describe to you what every band member wore and what they were doing at various points in the show; they were present without becoming the focal point for the audience. It’s incredible to me how much stage presence and power Maynard brings while placing himself behind his band mates for the entire show. If anyone can be given a pass on having an inflated ego, it’s Maynard, yet he casts aside the expectations of a front man and allows the music to take center stage. He could easily demand spotlights on him, riling the crowd up simply by allowing them a glimpse of greatness, but instead he chooses not to cheapen the music and experience and remains in place as nothing more than a piece of the machine that is Tool.
With a couple minor exceptions, that Tuesday night crowd moved as one. Voices were synchronized, gestures choreographed, it was as if the sound bellowing from the speakers instructed us on how to behave and react. At some points during the night, I was left motionless and nearly slack-jawed, unable to do much aside from absorbing the sound and allowing my eyes to feast on what was happening before me. Unlike the greasy-haired hippie who head-banged for the sake of whipping his filthy locks around, I was unable to tear my eyes and concentration from the stage and the screens. At other points, the music overtook me and I couldn’t help but move and be moved. Often, I forgot about the strangers surrounding me, reminded only when one would accidentally bump my elbow or move down our aisle. It was a strange combination of feeling like one among many and feeling like the only person in the room.
Eight hours combined in the car to get there and back, somewhere around 60 minutes of sleep to keep me going at work the next day, a neck that feels as if it has been subjected to rigorous torture, ears that won’t stop ringing, a very sore throat, and a zombie-like glaze over my face are all the obvious souvenirs I took from my Tuesday night concert with my husband. Not so obvious is the incredible happiness I have for finally being a part of the crowd at a Tool concert and for having my husband by my side the entire night. Also less visible is the satisfaction of being able to say I was there, to know I experienced it, and to know that I can without a doubt or second thought say that this concert will forever be in the #1 spot for musical events in my lifetime.