Tool lead singer, standing profile, facing right, standing on stage illuminated in blue and white light

Tool lead singer (Tamala Malerk)

In the 1990s the repeated lyrics of “learn to swim, learn to swim, learn to swim…” played from the speakers in my mom’s car. I had no idea what the lyrics were throughout the rest of the song, but that part remained stuck in my head. Roughly 10 years later, I made it my personal goal to learn all the words to this almost seven-minute-long song,“Ænima” by TOOL. Almost two decades after hearing TOOL for the first time on the radio, I finally got to see them in concert.

TOOL, formed in 1990, has been rocking the stage for over 30 years. Their first album, released in 1993, “Undertow,” eventually made it to the number one spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, but it was their second album, also titled “Ænima” that really put them on the map. TOOL has sold over 14 million albums since their inception and has put out five studio albums and several EPs. Since 2023, TOOL has been on tour promoting their latest album, “Fear Inoculum” and my husband and I got to catch the first leg of their EU/UK tour.

Road sign pointing towards the parking garages where people can park for TOOL concert

Parking sign for TOOL concert (Tamala Malerk)

We took the train from Mannheim to Hannover to catch the show at the ZAG Arena. The arena has a Radisson Blu literally a two minute walk (if that) away where we stayed for the weekend. Doors opened at 6 p.m. and we rushed in with the rest of the crowd to grab our souvenir t-shirts.  As my husband, the real TOOL fan (I’m more of a “radio hits-fan” to be honest), and I found our seats, an announcement came over the speakers informing us that no pictures or filming would be allowed during the night’s performance. If that weren’t enough, there were also papers on our seats repeating the statement. The band was serious about the no cellphone rule. There were extra security members standing next to the stage with flashlights that they would point directly at anyone brandishing a cellphone aimed towards the stage. We even had a security member walk down our aisle to chastise someone (though I did not personally see anyone removed).

I must say that the TOOL concert was like no other concert I have ever attended. My first concert was an All That Music and More concert two days before my eighth birthday. Other concerts include the Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter, Simple Plan, My Chemical Romance, Aerosmith, LeAnn Rhymes, Evanescence with Korn, as well as 12-hour-long music festivals. Needless to say, I have not only seen many concerts, but also a variety of genres. Nonetheless, I repeat, TOOL was like no other concert I have ever attended.

Paper informing us about the cell phone policy: “Tonight’s show has a no camera policy, which includes cell phones....You will be ejected from the show without the opportunity to return....”

Paper informing us about the cell phone policy (Tamala Malerk)

In typical concert fashion, there was an opening band, Night Verses. That was about where “typical” ends. Night Verses put on a great 30-minute set and did not sing a single word. It kind of threw me off to have a rock band play without any lyrics. I felt like I was listening to an action movie soundtrack without the movie playing.

TOOL came on about 8:30 p.m. and played a solid 90 to 100-minute set that even included a 12-minute intermission (a first for me). Throughout the entire show, light shows and trippy moving backgrounds constantly played during each song. Each background depicted moving images and sequences, including abstract waves, different locations, aliens, human bodies and body parts and more. Nothing was horribly grotesque or improper, but the displays could make one feel uncomfortable at times (which may have been the point if you are familiar with TOOL’s music). Their guitarist, Adam Jones, is the one responsible for these intriguing digital designs and their album artwork, along with artist, Alex Grey. Jones also did special effects work for the movies “Jurassic Park,” “Terminator 2” and “Batman Returns.”

The lead singer, Keenan, never took center stage, another first in any concert I have ever seen. Instead, he performed in the back on the left and right side of the stage behind the drummer, Danny Carey, whose giant drum and technical set-up took up a large portion of the back center of the stage. In fact, Keenan would often disappear during the non-lyrical minutes of the songs. (For those unaware, a typical TOOL song can last between seven and 12 minutes). However, you would never guess that Keenan recently celebrated his 60th birthday. He moved constantly when he was onstage, really vibing and connecting with the music.

After the 12-minute intermission, Carey emerged on stage alone with a giant gong and played a beautiful solo that temporarily transformed me from a lead singer-girl to a drummer-fan. He then performed “Chocolate Chip Trip” with a camera around his neck, so the audience saw the entire thing from his point of view.

TOOL played numerous songs that allowed not only Keenan and Carey to show off, but their bassist, Justin Chancellor, and their guitarist, Adam Jones as well. Chancellor and Jones played at the front of the stage on the left and right sides. While I cannot name every song that was played, I recognized “The Grudge,” “Invincible,” “Jambi” and some songs from “Fear Inoculum.”

Prior to the last song beginning, Keenan gave us permission as a crowd to “take out [our] stupid phones” and take film and photographs. I screamed the loudest at this song, not because of their new allowance of film, but rather because it was the most recognizable of their songs (to me): radio hit, “Stinkfist.”

Tool lead singer, standing profile, facing right, holding up a microphone towards the audience

Tool lead singer (Tamala Malerk)

Unfortunately, they never played “Learn to Swim,” I mean, “Ænima.” That’s okay, the pure talent demonstrated by the band allowed me to enjoy the entire show, even the songs I was completely unfamiliar with. My only minor gripe is that at times the music was too loud for the speakers, but that isn’t the band’s fault. I left the concert more than just a casual fan and hope to see them again in the future so I can recognize the deep cuts.

There are still chances to catch TOOL live in Europe through the end of June 2024. For all shows in Europe, Night Verses is the opening band and definitely worth a listen before you go. The remaining EU/UK dates include locations in France, Germany, Belgium, Austria and more. Book your tickets here.

Tool guitarist playing in front of the drummer, illuminated in a blue glow

Tool guitarist (Tamala Malerk)

author picture
Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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