Wednesday, August 24, 2005


System of a Down @ Continental Airlines Arena East Rutherford, NJ 8/23/05
I hadn't been to an arena show in almost a year (the last one was The Beastie Boys at Madison Square Garden last October; they were awesome in case you're wondering), but I bought a ticket for this one since I'd never seen System of a Down before and I knew that since they don't play smaller venues as a general rule that this would probably be a good opportunity to do that. Anyway, we missed the 1st opener Bad Acid Trip and by the time we got there, The Mars Volta had taken the stage. First off, let me say that the sound mix was atrocious. I mean, the sound at arena shows and bigger clubs like Roseland and Hammerstein is usually bad, but this was the worst I'd ever heard. Or maybe I'd just so use to going to see bands in small clubs that I notice it more as the years go on. Anyhow, partially as a result of the terrible sound mix, The Mars Volta sounded like utter crap. It was like a big blur of noise and not noise that goes somewhere and is interesting, either. It was painful to listen to. They were unequivocally one of the worst bands I've ever seen or at least one of the worst openers. My friend Ian remarked that it was like seeing Phish, except that they're influenced by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix (and I would add Santana and fusion-era Miles Davis to that list of influences as well) as opposed to The Grateful Dead and actually I kind of agree with him. Many years ago, a friend dragged me to see Phish once (he was really into them at the time) and I was bored out of my mind for most of that show as well. Anyhow, I commend Omar and Cedric for breaking up At the Drive-In at the height of their popularity in order to pursue what they really wanted to do, but they just don't have the chops, songs or stage presence to pull it off and frankly, for me it was painful to listen to and incredibly boring.

Now onto System. They came out with the guitarist singing behind a curtain and then tore into "BYOB", their popular single from earlier this year from their stunning new album Mesmerize. Now I'll be frank here. I can't stand most nu-metal or alt-metal or whatever you wanna call what they do, but System has always stood out from the pack for me for a variety of reasons:
1) Their riffs are speed-metal based and their rhythms are funky without trying to be, unlike so many of their contemporaries. Furthermore, they're as intricate as a prog-rock band but they have the fury of the best hardcore punk and occasionally their tempos match it as well.
2) Their lyrics are incredible and they're one of the few bands in their genre dealing with socio-political concerns but not in a heavy-handed manner. They combine overtly political material like "BYOB" and "Prison Song" with goofy, fun songs like "Bounce" and odd personal stories like "Old School Hollywood", which is about a celebrity baseball game in which among other things, Tony Danza is found out to be a line-cutter (they didn't play this song, unfortunately).
3) Their songs are really catchy and well-done and passionate.
4) For all of these reasons, they transcend their genre and are truly an excellent band.

Anyhow, despite the awful sound (whenever they tried to play something softer like one acoustic-based number, it sounded like they were playing with boxing gloves), they played excellently with vocalist Serj Tankian expertly pumping up the crowd and occasionally playing some synth as well. Guitarist Daron Malakian moved around the stage the most, alternating between different sides of the massive stage and moving a lot like Angus Young (though sans schoolboy uniform) and playing like a one-man James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett all rolled into one. Incredible. The material played included many selections from Mesmerize, one from the upcoming Hypnotize (recording during the same time as Mesmerize but released months apart from each other, much like Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac) as well as selection from 2001's excellent Toxicity and their self-titled debut album. What was odd about the show was that there was no encore. They just played straight for an hour and 45 minutes or so and just kicked ass. Highly recommended.


Anonymous Odessa said...

What else can i say except, System rules.

2:40 AM


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