Walking into Shepherds Bush Empire on a cold Sunday night, hundreds of burly metalheads waiting for the almighty Serj Tankian were greeted by support act Viza, who happened to sound exactly like early System of A Down. With the sounds of the Middle East coming through due to their punchy beat and an ace oud-player, it is impossible not to hear SOAD’s work in these new boys. Nonetheless, their 40-minute set is met with huge applause and the knowledge that they’ve won over the crowd.
As Serj Tankian takes the stage, the sound of his intro music is drowned by a level of cheering which can only be awarded to artists who have made a true impact on a generation. With his work in SOAD, he cemented his place in the rock world, as well proving his worth and glorious operatic voice in a scene which shies away from good vocalists. Like a true, lasting frontman, he absorbs his appraisal, but his ego has not inflated in his many years of success, a refreshing sentiment.
In the beginning half of the set, Tankian begins to discuss the environment, and although it was, to be honest, not at all memorable, the audience let him have his say without heckle or harassment. “I could go on…” he teases, before heading into songs from new album ‘Harakiri’. However, it is when he moves to tracks from ‘Elect The Dead’ that the crowd get truly excited. ‘The Unthinking Majority’ in its punky, fast-paced glory filled the room as Serj commended his fans on their singalong.
The videocams were out for ‘Ching Chime, as instructed by Tankian, to compile a video for the song. He was joined by Andrew from Viza on the oud, and as the stunning vocalist alludes to his previous band on this song, the crowd react with enthusiasm. He then moves into ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’, in which he employs the age-old technique of dividing the crowd for a singalong. Luckily, Tankian himself is self-aware enough to know he is being cheesy, even ending the song with jazz-hands and an accompanying outro which you can’t help but laugh at.
Before leaving the stage, he tells of his recent endeavour; he has been creating a record with Jimmy from Mindless Self Indulgence, which he described as “fucked up electro”, before bidding farewell with ‘Elect The Dead’ single ‘Empty Walls’ which saw an entire room satisfied, and convinced that was, sadly, the end of his set. Moments later, he came back onstage, in awe of the reaction he had received. He confessed his adoration for the crowd and their unending enthusiasm, before saying “we usually wouldn’t, but…”- and his band started playing System’s ‘Aerials’. The sheer excitement in the Empire was a true spectacle, as fans from front to back- and even some of the bar staff- sang along with the song that made them aware of this brilliant performer. With a pitch-perfect voice, a great backing band and incredible songs to support, Serj ended the week with a bang.