LIVE REVIEW: Shihad @ The Annandale, Sydney 21/08/10

Still from the new 'Lead Or Follow' video

written by Chris Familton

Shihad are one of those bands that generates debate over their various career moves. There was the ill-fated name change to Pacifier in a bid for overseas success and the subtle and not so subtle stylistic shifts with each new each album. The diehard fans, particularly the New Zealanders who cottoned on early to the band’s greatness, still call for songs like Derail and Screwtop from Churn whereas the less metallic fans love the darkness of Killjoy. The General Electric holds the biggest appeal to the masses and it was this album that was bound to create the biggest reaction when played live in full.

There was no support act, probably a sign of the band’s fastidious approach to the quality of their setup and live sound and commitment to delivering the best possible live show. Instead we got a ‘rock’ DJ who did a great job of warming up the crowd with Queens Of The Stone Age, Head Like A Hole, Split Enz, The Datsuns, Darcy Clay and AC/DC.

After an interminable wait the smoke rose, lights dimmed and the four figures of Shihad bound onstage to a heroes welcome. Obviously we all knew what song was coming first and they launched into My Mind’s Sedate with the usual intensity and precision aggression. The Annandale was a sea of arms in the air and despite the deafening volume the voices of the fans could still be heard passionately screaming along in unison.

Playing an album live does have its downside in that the band is locked into the track-listing order which isn’t necessarily designed for a live show. The General Electric does play its cards early with the title track sounding monstrous with its super-crunch riff slicing through the room. It has to be one of the last great hard rock tracks of the 20th century. Wait And See followed with its electronic bounce injecting some danceability. The chorus was huge with Jon Toogood leading the crowd in a united bounce and sing-a-long.

Pacifier dialed back the speed but not the intensity. Allowing the band and audience to get their breath back it showed how well Shihad can do slow and heavy. My friend, seeing them for the first time, turned to me and asked if the band thought they were in a stadium, such was the epic delivery and passionate interaction of Toogood. That is the thing about Shihad, their songs can destroy a small club and then fill a stadium with equal ease.

Toogood had all eyes on him for the entire set as he gripped the ceiling, leant out over the fans, and implored them to leap into the music with the same conviction as him. He made three journeys along the top of the bar, with guitar and mic, to engage the punters at the back and they responded in kind. It seemed a tad predictable after he had done the same thing the last time they played The Annandale but you couldn’t help but grin at the overt ‘rockness’ of it all.

With The Thin White Line Shihad roared back into turbo mode but it was the last great moment of the album airing as things dropped off in song quality. The Metal Song providing the last gasp of sweat and metal before the smoke cleared and the ears were given a momentary reprieve before the encore of Interconnector and the pop attack of La La Land.

Shihad breathed new life into a 11 year old album with conviction and power and it would have been magic to have also witnessed Killjoy the previous night. They are a band who know how to give the fans what they want and it was clever and perfect timing to do these shows as a bookmark ahead of the release of their new album Ignite, hopefully focusing attention on the new now they have revisited the old.

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