System of a Down, La Zona Rosa, January 7

Live Shots

System of a Down

La Zona Rosa, January 7

System of a Down had to cancel their first scheduled Austin concert last year. The loud & heavy Los Angeles quartet also cancelled the rescheduled gig due to sickness and a death in the family. This was to be the grand make-up show. To demonstrate good intent, the show was free, which meant that even on a rainy evening, La Zona was filled to capacity with all-ages fans eager to get some volume therapy from the political aggro-metal outfit -- unlucky fans cursing at the venue's event staff from behind La Zona's closed iron front gate. With the quartet eager to prove they were worth their weight in hype, vocalist Serj Tankian started things off with, "Austin, you're the bomb," which was enough to spontaneously combust a mosh pit. Likewise, herb smoke filled the venue like it was shot from a smoke machine. Opening numbers had an intensifying effect, bald heads banging to beats, and assholes throwing lit cigarettes into the mosh pit. Once warmed up, the band launched into "Mind," Tankian screaming "free thinkers are dangerous" and "the CIA is gonna let you motherfuckers die!," and the audience echoing with its own impromptu chorus, "Fuck you!" "Suite-Pee," the opener from their Rick Rubin-produced eponymous debut on American Recordings followed, proving the band was tighter than late-Seventies designer jeans. "Spiders," about government mind control, and "Chicken Stew" preceded a cover of "Snowblind" by Black Sabbath, whom S.O.A.D. recently opened for in England. In addition to their political bent, Tankian's love-'em-or-hate-'em vocals, which on "Spiders" reach Eddie Vedderesque emotional intensity and recall the idiosyncratic phrasing of Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, define S.O.A.D's rage against the machine. The cry "It's time for the U.S. government to stop sleeping with multinational corporations" stimulated the start-stop sledgehammer of "War," where the band finally reached their live peak. Guitarist Daron Malakian invited dancing ladies to join, wherein willing females -- via the mosh express -- filled the stage, consuming band members with rock & roll abandon. Then came the band's showstopper, "Sugar," but that was it. No more. No encores. And strangely no pleas for any. A headlining, score-settling show? Ending at 11pm on a Friday night, after only one hour? On this night S.O.A.D. were an entertaining opening band, but nothing more.

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