Saturday, August 18, 2012

System of a Down Tears It Up in Rosemont -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

System of a Down
with The Deftones
Allstate Arena
August 15, 2012

Why don't Presidents fight the war?
Why do they always send the poor?

More than anything else, that incisive lyric from System of a Down's brilliant, Grammy-winning 2005 song "B.Y.O.B."--on my shortlist of the 21st century's best--is what made me realize how much the band transcended most of the Nu-Metal genre with which they'd been lumped.

Although SOAD released their first album in 1998 and the smash Toxicity in 2001, due to my aversion and/or indifference to bands such as Korn, Linkin Park, Tool and Limp Bizkit, I didn't pay much attention, even to the glorious single, "Chop Suey."

I can't recall what prompted me to explore Mesmerize, the first of sibling albums in 2005 (along with Hypnotize), but when I did, I found the title apt.

The music and the lyrics were wildly inventive, fused with heavy metal volume, punk protest and rap topicality, but in a style all System's own.

Seeing SOAD live in 2005 further blew me away and, in rueing the relative lack of contemporary bands that are releasing socially commentative music in the wake of economic meltdown, I've looked to System as a paragon of rock activism and hoped they would re-activate.

Last year, without releasing any new music, the So. Cal quartet re-emerged to play a number of international festivals, and have now embarked on a U.S. tour that brought them back to the Allstate Arena on Wednesday.

After a solidly entertaining opening set by the Deftones, another acclaimed nu-metal band, yet one whose music I've never explored, System of a Down once again showed that they are a powerhouse live act as they dazzled the not-quite-full "Horizon" crowd with their unique style of hyperkinetic songcraft.

Tunes like "B.Y.O.B.," "Psycho," "Chop Suey," "Bounce," "Cigaro," "Sugar" and many more kept the throng on the floor in a state of perpetual frenzy and those of us with seats never needing to use them over a 90-minute barrage. (Full setlist here)

While it was cool to see the crowd react to "B.Y.O.B." and other Mesmerize/Hypnotize songs as classics, rather than the new songs they were on the last tour, given the topical insight that has elevated System's music, it was a bit amiss to not hear any new material.

With the state of affairs in the world being what they've been over the past few years, I am eager to hear SOAD's spin on Wall Street malfeasance, corporate corruption, political impotence and all the rest. With the caveat that singer Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian have released solo projects in the intervening years that I haven't explored--and may well have plenty of politicism to them--it felt a trifle lacking for such an incendiary voice of enlightened dissent to run through a greatest hits set, as enjoyable as it was.

And perhaps slightly as a result, along with the fact that band members--and I--are now 7 years older, Wednesday's show didn't seem quite as ferocious as I recalled the 2005 gig being.

Yet, based on post-show reactions from the audience, it seemed no one was disappointed with what was a tremendously entertaining performance by what remains a great band. In fact, on the way to my car I witnessed one exuberant--and perhaps overserved--fan humping a tree while exclaiming, "That show was so awesome!"

Even without quite that abandon, I was certainly glad to have System in a Down back in action and giving their new and old Chicago fans a potent reminder of their rare power and panache, both musically and viscerally, albeit without any of the gimmickry accoutrements that characterized Coldplay's great show last week.

Given the band's stretch of dormancy, it wasn't too surprising to see almost an utter lack of teenagers in the house, but here's hoping that younger fans will again come to realize the greatness of an act that not only provides such an animated assault, but actually has something to say.

Here's a taste of "Chop Suey" from Wednesday night in Rosemont (video not shot by me):

No comments: