Shihad have been fully committed to ‘rock’ for 21 years and over that time they have had their fair share of ups and downs with the death of their manager Gerald Dwyer during 1995s Big Day Out tour and the ill fated name change to Pacifier in a bid for more commercial success. 2009 sees an interesting time for the band with a new album slated for March 2010 and a run of New Zealand shows, each featuring one of their albums played in its entirety.
In light of their current projects there was an expectant mood in the air of the Annandale. With no new album to promote this promised to be a set of the ‘hits’ and a chance for the band to get back on stage after a break for much of 2009.
Up first were Kill Teen Angst who possessed a big Queens Of The Stone Age sound, muscular and swinging. These weren’t fey emo rock boys – as their name suggests.
Regular John are everywhere at the moment and their live show is super tight. With dual frontmen they present an interesting dynamic. One carries a more psychedelic 70s look while centre stage the other resembles a young James Hetfield, dressed in black with crazy eyes and wild blond hair. Between the two of them they produce guitar sounds that swerve between metal, punk, stoner rock and 60s psych rock. It is a clever and diverse mix that only bores slightly with some of the dumber ‘fuck the establishment’ type lyrics.
Shihad hit the stage like they always do, full of energy, on their toes and ready to tear the place apart. With the briefest of greetings they launched headlong into My Mind’s Sedate, a sign that they were here to deliver a big heartfelt set.
Songs came thick and fast from most of their albums (alas Churn was again neglected) and it was great to see them pulling out Bitter from what many consider to be their classic album – Killjoy. The reception for the tracks from the Pacifier album showed that though they were highly criticised for the move, their audience still bought the music. Comfort Me, Run and Semi–Normal were all big choruses and audience sing a long moments.
The best moments came when Shihad unleashed their metal side with full force. Day Will Come and The General Electric were massive riff-fests that had the Annandale moving from stage to back door with more energy than I have witnessed there in a long time.
The highlight of the night was Jon Toogood’s passion and energy which he demonstrated during Wait And See by clambering from the stage to the bar with mic and guitar and proceeded to shimmy and strut his way to the far end of the room where he unleashed slashing chords and rock poses for the outreached arms of the fans. It was one those magic moments where the gap between audience and band was well and truly torn down and the crowd lapped it up.
There was one new song debuted – Sleepeater – which showed them employing an interesting and dense guitar sound with a characteristic big melodic chorus. Promising signs that their next album will be a well balanced mix of the metal and melody that they shift between.
Shihad tonight showed that they play the same way in a stadium and in a local pub. All hesitations and pretensions are disregarded and their one aim is to move your feet and engage your ears with intensity and emotion. They proved they have a now classic back catalog to draw on and they show no signs of slowing down or easing up.