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Concert Reviews:
System of a Down focuses on fun at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Earlier this year, System of a Down embarked on a Wake Up the Souls Tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Heavy stuff for a heavy band.

But on Wednesday, June 17, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, the Los Angeles quartet primarily wanted to party.

Sure, there was plenty of socio-political content spread throughout the 90-minute, 27 song show, one of just eight dates SOAD is playing for the remainder of the year. That's just part and parcel of what SOAD is, and populist, proletariat leanings of "Dear Dance," "Ariels," "Radio/Video" and so many others certainly let the concert run deeper than most headbanging affairs.

But SOAD determinedly didn't go out of its way to hammer the messages home, either. So those in the nearly sold-out DTE crowd who just wanted to mosh or to marvel at the group's impressive precision and turn-on-a-dime dynamics were well served throughout the night.

Following equally individualistic and idiosyncratic opening sets by Le Butherettes and the Melvins -- the latter of whom played for 45 minutes without stopping for a second -- SOAD opened with a snippet of "Mind" that led into the staccato "Deer Dance" and then "Tentative," the first expositions of the band's suite-like arrangement sensibilities. Any given song could careen in any number of directions, flicking from breakneck metal to hooky melodies in an instant and even an occasional reggae break or gypsy rhythm. Guitarist Daron Malakian even tossed a bit of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" into the end of "Suggestions," just before a solo that led into "Psycho."

Malakian was, in fact, SOAD's clown prince throughout the show. While frontman Serj Tankian dazzled the crowd with his wide array of theatrical vocal stylings, the red-jacketed Malakian cut up, at one point asking security to return a fan who ushered out of the general admission pit in front of the stage and at another asking for the return of a joint he'd thrown into the crowd. He also made some random references to the Detroit Red Wings, and when bassist Shavo Oladjian queried the guitarist about how many times SOAD had played at DTE, Malakian noted, "You're asking the biggest stoner in the world."

That didn't prevent Malakian from firing off plenty of fierce and clever solos, however, and the set list made room for plenty of musical highlights -- "B.Y.O.B.," the anthemic "Hypnotize," a ferocious sequence of "Bounce," "Suggestions," "Psycho" and "Chop Suey," and a gorgeous arrangement of "Lost in Hollywood" on which Tankian and Malakian shared lead vocals. The group also tossed in the rare demo tape track "Honey."

About the only thing missing was anything new. The group hasn't released anything since 2005, and while SOAD's brand of avant metal doesn't sound dated at all, there's clearly an appetite from its audience for more. But until that happens, Wednesday's concert showed that what Malakian called the "golden oldies" will more than suffice for the time being.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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