In the Venue
With Fair to Midland
Driving down 200 South to reach In the Venue only to see a line stretching around the block outside the venue for Serj Tankian was a surprise in itself. The man has fronted System of a Down for years and with the band in hiatus mode currently, it is only natural that an artist that has such a voice as his and is so driven to be heard that Serj would ultimately turn into a solo artist. I guess my finger isn’t quite on the pulse of the popular music scene because I had no idea that with one solo album under his belt and his first tour for the album would draw such a crowd.
With only two bands on the bill and the show billed at starting at roughly 7 p.m., I hoped to have more time to dilly dally my night away after the show but the first band Fair to Midland didn’t hit the stage until well after 8 p.m. The band is officially dubbed progressive rock but listening to them live and on CD is a different story. They have elements of prog rock, but nothing like the greats. There is actually a slight nu-metal edge to what they do. Thankfully I had plenty of time to grab a jumbo glass of Killians to get me through their set. The first song was interesting enough; pleasant keyboard melodies and an interesting vocal range, but it seemed like the band was going through the motions even though they did put forth a bit of energy and got the crowd radiating. After that first song I kept waiting to hear something new but it sounded like the same song again and again; repeating melodies with some screamed vocals that not only sounded bad but were out of place for the music. The guitarist and bassist did their little headbanging stage spins and the singer would break out in to these little dance episodes that resembled a seizure more than anything else.
Being fairly familiar with Serj’s material having reviewed his Elect the Dead album a few months ago, there was a bit of anticipation to see the man, and System hasn’t played in Utah for probably a decade. There was no question the large crowd was amped to see the man. I’ve never heard more people cheering during a sound-check before. The stage was simple but you could tell a show was going to be had; all members of Serj’s band had mics to add their backing vocals and there was an actual piano. Various other sound implementing devices were also set up.
I tend to judge concerts based on crowd reactions because in the end the fans view is all that really matters, not a critic's view. From show start to finish Serj had the audience eating out of his groovy top-hat he was wearing.
Tankian has always had an outspoken voice about politics and the world with System so it’s only natural for him to have that same voice for his solo material. Ultimately it was his wide vocal range that made the show stand out. His band was in tune with each other and playing well, but it all backed what Tankian was singing about and his fun dances about the stage. Tankian played through most of his record with an appropriate Dead Kennedy’s cover of “Holiday in Cambodia.” If anything the show was a sign that the multi-faceted artist can hold his own. Although System of a Down may be more entertaining to watch, Tankian is emerging as a solo artist with only success in sight.