Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Gig Review - System of a Down at Wembley Arena

Last Friday I went with my son and his girlfriend to see System of a Down at Wembley Arena.  SOAD were my son's angry teenage band - he listened to Toxicity a lot at one point I remember.  Through him liking them and me liking tracks like Aerials and Chop Suey in particular I really got into them when they produced the Mezmerize and Hypnotize albums.  Those I really liked.

Anyway so SOAD were on our "list of bands to see" when my son and I regularly trooped off to gigs and the odd festival day or two.  However I didn't want to do Download when they played there and then they'd broken up.  So when my son heard that they were coming to London on the Wake Up The Souls tour he was straight on the case to get tickets.

They took to the stage about 7:45pm and left just before 11pm.  Yep - just over two hours, non-stop pretty much, no 20 min intermission for a cup of tea.  That is impressive by any standards but given the complex nature of their music and the energy needed to perform it even more so.  Anyone who knows their music will know that it goes from quiet melodic folk music influenced to screaming heavy/trash metal in a heartbeat.  I can only imagine that for the band the two hours is the equivalent of a half marathon workout!

They were on top form.  Sound quality was very good if a little bass heavy but that seems to be how all bands have their live sound these days but for me I'd just notch the bass back a couple of points - but that is personal taste.  Each instrument and voice was clear and held it's own in the mix, important for some of the vocal harmonies they employ which for many loud bands would have been lost easily in a muddy mix.  Daron Malakian had a really terrific guitar sound, trebley and clean but at times harsh and dirty but listening throughout the sharpness of the clean tone rang out even when in the heavier bits.  I was a loooong way back from the stage but he use Gibson SGs throughout.  They handled his downtune low end well too.  Shavo Odadjian used a Gibson Thunderbird throughout which was suitably thumpy for their sound.

At the climax they finished off the last of the at least 30 song set and left the stage - no encore etc.  They do do it differently from many others but there is nothing wrong in that.

The only interruptions were three short animated films shown on three large screens.  There was one before they hit the stage and two more interspersed in the show.  The Wake Up The Souls tour is all about raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide which began 100 years ago this month.  This was the extermination of over 1 million Aremians by the Ottoman Government.  All this is part of a campaign to get modern day Turkey to acknowledge this atrocity and try to raise awareness.  The band play in Armenia - their ancestral homeland - for the first time ever on 23 April the day before the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide.  Those films and the short speeches by the band meant you could attend the show and not be involved in the politics but at the same time have caused me to go off and research more on the subject which no doubt is partly what they wanted.

So therefore now... System of  Down seen live and enjoyed!  Top tracks for me were Aerials, Chop Suey and Lost in Hollywood.


  1. Those guys filled Wembley Stadium?! That's astonishing. They were popular here for a while but I don't think they ever got THAT popular. I could be mistaken.

    1. I'll edit... Wembley arena... which is a big shed next door to the stadium. Still 10,000 or so capacity