The undisputed kings of prog-metal, Tool, are back. And Saturday's sold-out show at KeyArena is one of the hottest tickets in a slumping summer concert season that's already seen the likes of Rihanna and the Jonas Brothers bail on local tour stops.
What makes Tool recession-proof at a time when other chart toppers seem especially vulnerable? For starters, the L.A. quartet – vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey – is smart enough to stay gone long enough that fans never have a chance to get sick of them.
Four years have passed since Tool’s last album, “10,000 Days,” hit stores, a typical hiatus from a group that’s delivered just four full-length studio albums in 17 years.
And 21/2 years have gone by since the band last played Puget Sound, in late 2007 at Everett’s Comcast Arena (then Everett Events Center). So it was no great shocker when tickets for Saturday’s show went in less than an hour.
Tool also was able to build all of that anticipation, not to mention their massive cult, by staying unwaveringly true to a freaky but compelling vision.
From Keenan’s odd outfits and primal stage antics to those creepy stop-motion videos that helped the band conquer MTV in the ’90s, Tool has bucked trends and remained remorselessly arty and bizarre.
And with lyrical allusions to Jungian philosophy and trippy time signatures you may need a calculator to sort out, they have more than earned their reputation as “the thinking man’s metal band.”
The buzz before the New Orleans tour launch was that the band might unleash more cerebral metal on the masses this summer.
“We’re always writing,” Keenan told Rolling Stone recently. “If it comes together, yeah, you’ll hear some new stuff. If it’s not ready, you won’t.”
It must not be ready. A quick scan of set lists yields no new song titles (although you never know what will pop up at an individual show).
Also conspicuously absent are some old songs, namely early radio hits, “Sober” and “Prison Sex.”
That shouldn’t be too surprising because during their most insufferable live moments, Tool seems to consciously avoid anything remotely resembling a hook.
They deliver every sprawling, 10-minute epic in their arsenal while Keenan slinks around in the shadows.
But (spoiler alert) fans can still expect plenty of good old-fashioned head-banging goodness, with the more accessible, less “prog” end of the spectrum – “Stinkfist,” “Vicarious,” “Intolerance,” “Forty Six & 2” and the Bill Hicks inspired “Aenima” – in rotation.
Tool’s been doing that last one, arguably their best song, as the finale.
All that will be enhanced by a seizure-inducing laser light show and psychedelic, LED swirls that might rival Muse’s high-tech spectacle from April. Can’t wait. See you there.
• Closer to the home front, Emerald Queen Casino’s got country hit-makers Montgomery Gentry tonight; www.emeraldqueen.com.
• Buzz worthy on the local indie scene is Saturday’s bill at the New Frontier Lounge featuring Mahnhammer, 12 Guage Saint and Mico de Noche (quite possibly Tacoma’s loudest band). Music starts at 9 p.m.; www.thenewfrontierlounge.com.
• On Tuesday, the Mayhem Festival – featuring Korn, Rob Zombie, Lamb of God and more – will take over Auburn’s White River Amphitheatre; www.ticketmaster.com.