Glendale’s System of a Down made clear from the start of this “Souls 2005” benefit show — with proceeds earmarked for various human-rights groups — that the band’s politics would share the spotlight equally with its combustible music.
Before the music started, a short film on the Armenian genocide was shown, eliciting passionate responses from the Armenian-heavy aud. Boos cascaded when Turkish political figures were pictured, and cheers erupted when Armenians were pictured.
Quartet then took the stage to a hero’s welcome from the sold-out house, and launched into a powerful performance of more than two dozen songs, including a trio from the yet-to-be-released albums “Mezmorize,” which is due next month, and “Hypnotize,” likely coming in the third quarter of the year. “B.Y.O.B.,” a frenetic anti-war rant that is already a hit, was the evening’s opening musical salvo.
Bulk of the perf, however, was a veritable greatest-hits roundup from SOAD’s three platinum-certified Columbia studio albums, with plenty of on-topic between-song remarks punctuating the songs. “The Ottoman Mountains do NOT belong to Turkey,” shouted singer Serj Tankian as the band ignited “Holy Mountains,” just one of many overtly political songs in the band’s oeuvre.
Many of the band’s best tracks feature dueling two-part vocals from Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian, particularly on “Prison Song,” the combustible lead-track from the “Toxicity” album, and on the frenzied “Needles.” Other highlights included “Spiders,” which gained intense momentum as it progressed, and the mock-boasting of new track “Cigaro.”
Show closed with the band’s take on “Sardarabad,” a traditional tune learned by most Armenians of elementary school age that has become something of an Armenian national anthem.
The onstage action was shown on two large screens over the stage, but lackluster production and uninspired camerawork made for a particularly poor display, the only weak part of the show.
This “Souls” benefit supports numerous charity orgs, including Amnesty Intl., Axis of Justice, Cambodian Student Society and the Armenian National Committee of America.