LIVE: Serj Tankian @ Academy, Manchester (08/10/2012)

Date: October 8th, 2012
Venue: Academy, Manchester
Support: The Hollywood Arson Project / Viza


You will find no bigger System Of A Down fan than I. I hold the utmost admiration for their frontman Serj Tankian as an artist, so to give this gig an average/mediocre score of 6/10 pains me so. But if you read on, you will see why.

Opener The Hollywood Arson Project (***), which compromises of three members from Serj‘s backing band, The F.C.C. They’re your standard support band, giving an entertaining performance but not exactly bowling anyone over. It doesn’t help matters that there’s something wrong with their sound for the majority of their 20 minute set. For starters, there was way, way too much bass, to the point where you could hear nothing else. Then, even when you could hear the vocals, they were incomprehensible and rather quiet. They’re a talented group who have just started this band. It may take some time to iron out the creases of their performance, but I have no doubt that they will get better over time.

Best band of the night award goes to Viza (*****), who completely steal the show. Their unique blend of Armenian/Greek folk and hard rock was a sight to behold. From the off, they have the crowd jumping and bouncing off the walls. The whole band are so incredibly talented, from K’noup Tomopoulos‘ outstanding vocals (both clean and harsh) to Andrew Kzirian‘s incredible Oud work. Their songs are easy to enjoy and get involved with, plus the crowd go mental when they play an excellent cover of The Doors‘ track ‘Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)’.

Now, I’m going to give Serj Tankian (**) two stars and here’s why. For starters, the sound was just fucking awful. This is mainly due to the bass (the same bassist as before might I add) being way too loud and drowning out everyone else. Even Serj and his immensely powerful voice struggles to compete with it. Even when they fix the bass, the guitars are still massively over distorted, to the point where you could hardly tell the difference between chords. There are times in the night when everything sounds great, but for the majority of it it just sounded shit.

Given that this tour is to promote his latest album, ‘Harakiri’, it seems a little odd that 10 of the 17 songs in his set came from debut, ‘Elect The Dead’. There’s a moment in the set when Serj brings out an acoustic guitar and begins to sing the intro to SOAD‘s hit ‘Question’ and my heart literally skipped a beat. I was ecstatic. Then, when the song kicks in, he plays ‘Baby’ instead which, to be fair, is a good song but it’s not a SOAD song, is it?

Various other things fucked me off about this gig too. Like Serj going off on political rants (although there were few of them, it was still annoying). Serj‘s overuse of the word ‘cunt’ and the fact he spent a fair bit of time dicking about with his voice as opposed to singing the actual songs. But, the thing that really did it for me was the ending. He ended most other shows on this tour with an encore of SOAD‘s ‘Aerials’, so obviously I was really geared to hear it. But, no, Serj says a quick thank you and goodnight, and then leaves the stage. I thought there would be an encore, but one never came. Not only was it horrifically anti-climactic, but it was just plain rude. Simply disappointed.

Written by Andy Roberts