3 Gigs, 1 Day for NZ Music Month: Shihad live at Meow, Wellington

Shihad NZMM tour Meow Wellington
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Shihad

Meow, Wellington

Sunday 1 May 2016

News about this show left me both excited and nervous. Like Shihad’s live FVEY debut at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, this gig was ballot only, meaning that if you don’t manage to win a ticket, you don’t go. Opportunistic gig-goers could try their luck by entering the draw through iHeartRadio and 2degrees websites, but that was the only way to get a ticket. It’s an interesting promotion, because it means that there is a risk of alienating the true fans who would be willing to pay for admission if they had the chance. But then again, if you are lucky enough to win, then you get to attend for free.

Thankfully, I did score some tickets to the gig. Again, my heart sank when I realised that I wasn’t able to get to the office in Wellington central to pick up my tickets within the specified time. But I emailed iHeartRadio and they understood, and were able to sort something that meant that I wouldn’t miss out on receiving my allocated tickets. And luckily for any other diehard fans who had missed out, Shihad released an extra allocation the day before.

Shihad were to play three gigs in three centres on May 1st to promote New Zealand Music Month. It must have been a tight schedule. I know they were pushing it fine to make it to the Wellington show because I was on the same flight as them. Thankfully they didn’t hit any unexpected delays.

Funnily enough, one of the last acts I saw at Meow had also done something similar and played another show in the South Island on the same day. Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I would have expected San Fran or Valhalla as the venue of choice for a heavy band of this stature. Usually Meow is not suitable for a rock gig because it’s full of tables, chairs and empty beer kegs. Thankfully they’d cleared enough floor space to make it manageable, like when Frank Turner played there last. Maybe frontman Jon Toogood thought highly enough of Meow to return, after playing there on his solo tour late last year.

Last time Shihad played in Wellington they opened for their heroes AC/DC. It was great, but it seemed wasteful having such talent play a daytime slot when the crowd still wasn’t full. This time was far better, packed intimately into a small bar, squashed in with a hundred or so die hard sweaty fans. The band members were all dressed fully in black, with only white lights shining upon them for most of the set, which made for a sharp and simple looking show.

Shihad have recently re-released their eponymous “Fish Album on vinyl, along with a ten inch pressing of the Blue Light Disco EP. The band decided that to celebrate this, along with the 20th anniversary of Fish, the had better play some songs off the album. The four songs from Fish, and two songs from Blue Light, were welcome appearances. Shihad have been drawing predominantly from FVEY for their sets over the past few years over the past few years, so it was nice to hear some older material that wasn’t so chug-heavy. In fact, I think it may be the first time I’ve seen Shihad play a bunch of those tracks. And just so we wouldn’t think that they were going too soft, they finished off with four FVEY songs, which left everyone gasping for breath.

I had initially held reservations, wondering if the band would need to hold back and pace themselves in order to last three sets in a day. I needn’t have worried. Sure, the set was short, but it was intense. Shihad are simply one of the best live acts around –  on both local and international scales. Their intense energy and quality songs made for a vivacious homecoming gig.

I saw both Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath play this weekend, and although both were incredible, I found myself enjoying the Shihad gig more. Toogood actually mentioned that Maiden are one of the reasons he decided to start a band, and Sabbath are obviously influences because Shihad covered their song “The Wizard” on their debut Devolve EP. Shihad have taken the best aspects of their influences and distilled them into something more accessible for the next generation. Take the song “The Living Dead“, for example. It could easily pass for a Killing Joke song, but is easier to listen to than most KJ songs.

I have nothing to complain about. The venue worked well, Shihad were devastatingly good, and the show was free. It was a treat to hear them play some really old material that doesn’t often arise, and I honestly think it was the most enjoyable gig of the weekend.

2015 in Review – Live Music at Will Not Fade

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg
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What a year it has been! We’ve been blessed to have so many amazing bands to come to our shores this year, and we are just as lucky to have strong local talent that we can depend on seeing throughout the year as well. I’ve summarised below some of the highlights and letdowns of my year, concluding with a discussion of the live music scene.

The best shows of 2015

Jurassic 5 blew me away with their incredibly fun and interactive show. Great music, great showmanship.

Frank Turner has been one of my favourite artists for years now. There’s no way that I could see him play his rousing music and it not be a highlight of my year. It was a cool bonus to meet him and have a chat outside the venue after the show as well. His new album, released a few months later, was also excellent.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

This Will Destroy You. Image: Fergus Cunningham

I actually thought that Australian post-rockers sleepmakeswaves put on a far better set than the more established headliners This Will Destroy You. There was so much energy and joy on stage. Many post-rock acts just let their music do the talking, but sleepmakeswaves put on a show as well as playing great music.

Most insane show award would go to either powermetal lords Dragonforce or mathcore act Dillinger Escape Plan. Although both could be classed as metal bands, they are at different (extreme) ends of the spectrum. Both played at a packed out Valhalla, and both bands featured musicians who were ridiculously proficient at their instruments.

I finally got to see what I consider an original hardcore/punk band this year. I’ve seen OFF!, Misfits and Corrosion of Conformity in the past, but they may as well be covers band,featuring more ring-ins than original members. A group of us hired a van and drove up to Auckland to see Gorilla Biscuits play at The Kings Arms. I think it is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing one of those pioneering punk/hardcore groups live, and it was great. Such a fun and positive band.

It is always a pleasure seeing perennial local heroes Jakob and Beastwars (the two bands toured as a double bill), and I managed to see my favourites Shihad play three times this year (at Homegrown and AC/DC).

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song "Pacifier" for the encore on Sunday.

The set that Shihad played both nights of Homegrown. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

My last highlight was Declaration AD, although I say this with a hint of sadness. They released their final album (Sometimes It’s Us) earlier on in the year, along with the announcement that their time as a band was coming to an end. The lineup for their final show at Zeal included some of the best current punk/hardcore/metal acts in New Zealand.  Declaration played a mammoth 16 songs and finished on a high. They made a big impact, not only in Wellington, but also in the wider New Zealand hardcore scene.

Disappointments

Every show I attended in Auckland this year left me feeling disappointed.

It started off with Foo Fighters cancelling their intimate Town Hall show because a truck with their gear had en route, leaving them without the equipment they needed. My friends and I took the opportunity to see American rapper Freddie Gibbs  instead. Gibbs was brilliant, but making fans wait for hours just to see a short 40 minute set was disrespectful to those who paid good money to see him perform.

The following night wasn’t much better. The Foo Fighters weren’t bad, but it was nothing compared to their previous few NZ concerts. They had stopped trying, choosing instead to rest on their laurels. They included a handful of covers throughout the set that dragged, and I was bored and ready to go home well before they had finished. I was glad to see that Rise Against were on form though. I didn’t think much of their latest album, and their opening set wasn’t very long, but it was actually one of the better sets I’ve seen them play.

A month later I was up in Auckland again for Westfest. I was most excited to see grunge icons Soundgarden. They started off with my favourite song of theirs, “Spoonman”, and it sounded terrible. Frontman Chris Cornell’s voice sounded strained and the band couldn’t keep energy up. I ended up leaving halfway through their set, because a free ride back to where we were staying was more attractive than seeing one of my favourite bands struggling onstage. Thankfully my other drawcard, Faith No More, were great, and metal pioneers Judas Priest put on an outstanding show earlier in the day, making Westfest worth attending overall. Cornell came back to New Zealand at the end of the year and all the reviews I read were glowing, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket to attend after he had put on such a dismal display at Westfest.

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More's Facebook page

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More’s Facebook page

Wellington venues

Venue Shed 6 has been refurbished as an alternative to the infamous TSB Arena that it sits beside. I saw both Gary Clark Jr and Jurassic 5 both play there, and had no complaints either time. It’s a versatile space and I hope that it gets utilised more in the future.

I attended two concerts at the Westpac Arena this year, and I would hesitate to attend another there. I have no issue with Elton John’s show, but his fans were totally ripped off, being charged extortionate fees for limited visibility. Likewise, AC/DC put on a brilliant show, but when 40 minute delays left fans exposed in the cold wind and rain I doubt many present were happy about the choice of venue. Sound and visibility issues coupled with overpriced tickets and cramped seating do little to suggest value for money.

Robbie Williams played a successful show at the Basin Reserve in October, indicating that the Basin could be a better alternative as Wellington’s primary outdoor venue.

Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Mogwai at James Cabaret. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

At one time Wellington’s best live venue, James Cabaret really let things slip. Lack of adequate air conditioning and no passouts made it hard to cope with the hot overcrowded conditions, especially when shows ran later than advertised. It was a real let down during Nas and Run The Jewels. And I don’t know if it was the venue’s fault, but there were complaints made about the excessive noise levels at Mogwai. After a handful of bad experiences I was seriously considering if I ever wanted to attend the venue again. And then without warning, the venue closed. Gorillaz Sound System had been booked to play James Cabaret, but got switched to Bodega last-minute. That was the last I ever heard of the venue.

We still have the trusty old bars Bodega and San Fran, who tend to get most bands. Meow has also been hosting more big bands this year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been to the new venue MOON in Newtown yet. I hope that the Town Hall will get revived one day, but from what I hear about the costs of earthquake restrengthening, it is too costly to be considered viable.

The festival scene

The established staples in the festival scene seem to be surviving. Homegrown promises to be exactly the same as it has always been. It’s almost the musical equivalent to the 7’s rugby tournament. Hipsterfest Laneway is potentially expanding next year. Raggamuffin promises to be a hit, with Wu Tang Clan announced as headliners.

Trusty old Big Day Out has experienced a rocky past few years, and has since been re-branded as Auckland City Limits, with affiliations to the similarly named Austin festival. It will be interesting to see how well ACL fares. Headliner Kendrick Lamar will be a major drawcard, and it is held later in the year, so won’t be competing against other festivals and events to the same degree.

It’s a risky time for promoters at the moment. Soulfest was cancelled last-minute due to poor ticket sales. New festival Mclaren Falls had to change venues due to complaints from locals. After the change of location they renamed as Echofest. And Echofest also cancelled and announced liquidation, leaving ticket holders potentially unable to get refunds.

Westfest16

The future of Westfest 16 is up in the air. NOFX have confirmed that they will not be coming.

Somewhat related, Australian festival Soundwave has ended. Promoter AJ Maddah has a history of dodgy dealings, and it sounds like the responsibility for the festival can be shared between Maddah and ticketing agency Eventopia. Fans are understandably upset, especially because neither party are willing to refund ticket holders. This has wider implications for live music in Austalasia, because it has undermined concertgoers faith in promoters and ticketing outlets. There is no way that Soundwave’s cancellation is a good thing, although some people are trying to crowdfund a Soundwave replacement called Legion.

It also places the future of Auckland heavy music festival Westfest in question. Westfest has ridden on the coattails of Soundwave for a few years now, offering very similar lineups. Westfest 14 and 15 both ran at a loss, and Westfest 16 had a noticably smaller lineup, reflecting and foreshadowing Soundwave’s issues. With many bands no longer travelling to Australia for Soundwave, it remains uncertain if they will travel further to New Zealand. However, despite being unprofitable, Westfest has done wonders to boost ODR Productions’ profile, and I have faith that whether they retain their festival or not, ODR will continue to organise most of the best shows for heavy music fans in New Zealand.

2016

2016 still looks bright. Wellington is offering their bi-annual Arts Festival, with acts like Sufjan Stevens and Death Cab For Cutie attending. I’m sure that we will have plenty of sideshows from Laneway and Byron Bays Bluesfest to look forward to as well.

Iron Maiden Book of Souls tour

David Dallas is playing at Victoria University O Week, and although I expect that will be awesome, I’m apprehensive about going to a gig that will likely feature a crowd of 17-year-old drunk first year students (probably dressed in togas as well). I’m also looking forward to seeing Iron Maiden play in Christchurch in April, and comedy/percussion show Blue Man Group in June.

 

What were the best shows you attended in 2015? And which ones are you looking forward to attending next year?

 

Joseph James

Live Review: AC/DC at Westpac Stadium, Wellington

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AC/DC Rock or Bust World Tour

w/ Villainy and Shihad

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Saturday 12 December

Shihad

Shihad have played the same set the past three times I’ve seen them play (Riwaka, and twice at Homegrown), drawing extensively from their latest album, FVEYIt was refreshing to see them play a more varied set this time, playing the more well known hits from throughout their catalogue. Although it was only half an hour long, there was no filler, and the crowd welcomed their boys home accordingly.

I remember on one drunken night during my teenage years I bumped into Shihad’s Jon Toogood in Courtney Place and began fangirling because he fronted one of my favourite bands. I remember asking what it was like opening for bands like Faith No More and AC/DC, with Toogood gushing about how it was such a surreal experience.

From how he was carrying on tonight, nothing has changed. He and drummer Tom Larkin had been suspended back in school for writing “AC/DC Rules!”graffiti in the school bathroom. And over two decades later, he still stands by that statement.

And the statement appeared to ring true from the moment the Aussie rock veterans came onstage. There was a cool animation on the screens showing astronauts landing on the moon, before an explosion sends a meteor through space. The crashing of the meteor and some pyrotechnics cued the start of the set, with the rockers kicking things off by playing title track “Rock or Bust”.

Technical Issues

Unfortunately things did go bust. The sound was pretty bad, and they actually stopped altogether to work out the difficulties after the second song. It wasn’t explained exactly what was happening, but we were left to wait in the cold wind and rain for over half an hour. Presumably some rain had affected the electrics? Frontman Brian Johnson explained that they didn’t want to proceed without things being perfect, but the wait was excessive. People even started booing.

Back in Black, back on track

Finally, after a very long and wet wait, the band came back onstage to play their set. It’s hard to tell if the set was shortened due to the delays, but they covered nearly all the big hits that I expected them to play.

The show was as grand as you’d hope. The large devil-horned stage had neon scaffolding, screens on either side, and a wall of Marshall amps set up behind the band. Although they were used sparingly, the pyrotechnics added a great explosive touch, complemented by the many lights on and around the stage. Even the crowd supplied lights, because in the swaying sea of drunken bogans were thousands of flashing red devil horn headbands. The stage props also added to the fun. First a large bell was lowered for “Hells Bells”. Next we had a large inflatable Rosie, suggestively dressed and shaking to her song. But the best was the many cannons rolled out for the encore of “For Those About To Rock”, firing when Johnson ordered for a salute.

AC/DC is the band that has released the same album twenty something times, so you know what to expect. We had Angus hopping around in a schoolboy uniform, and Johnson screeching into the mic. The drums were basic but effective, and as much focus was placed on the showmanship as on the musicianship. Cannons were fired and solos were played. Fireworks and pyrotechnics added to the fun, and at the end of the day, despite the technical delays, we got the extravaganza that we’d come for.

Joseph James

Live Review: Jim Beam Homegrown 2015, Wellington Waterfront

Jim Beam Homegrown Wellington 2015
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Jim Beam Homegrown 2015

Featuring a selection of New Zealand bands across multiple stages

Wellington Waterfront

Sunday 8 March 2015

 

The lead up to Jim Beam Homegrown has been interesting to observe. Tickets sold out about a week ago, prompting a frenzy of online ticket on-selling. An influx of first-year university students had just come down from their collective O-week high and decided that the cure was to attend Homegrown, no matter what it costs (Thanks Studylink!). Tickets that had originally sold for $109+bf were fetching $250. One girl even paid $700 for two!

Then the weather hit. The festival was postponed from Saturday to Sunday in light of predicted hurricane strength winds. Most visitors from out-of-town had return travel booked for Sunday, so suddenly couldn’t make the event. On top of that were locals who for whatever reason couldn’t escape Sunday commitments. Cue another ticket frenzy, with people desperate to get whatever they could for tickets that they were unable to use. I’m sure that hundreds went unused. Ticketing agencies refused refunds, citing terms and conditions. A postponed event is different to a cancelled event, and they can’t help it if someone is unfortunate enough not to be able to make it.

As a consolation, Homegrown organised two shows at TSB Arena on Saturday for those who couldn’t attend on Sunday. There was an early afternoon rock show featuring Villany, I Am Giant, Devilskin and Blacklistt. A later evening show featured rapper David Dallas, dub-rockers Kora, rock heavyweights Shihad and drum and bass favourites Shapeshifter.

Out-of-towners could choose one of the Saturday shows to attend. Seeing only four bands may have felt like a raw deal, but it was better than nothing. Not enough people showed up though, so Homegrown organisers allowed local ticket holders to attend as well, to fill up the venue.


On Sunday morning the weather was stunning. Still, bright and warm: the perfect recipe to ensure that thousands of drunken concertgoers get their generous dose of sunburn. There was no evidence to indicate the lightning, floods and gale winds of the previous day. The Wellington waterfront was already alive with activity due to the weekly vege markets, and steadily got busier as punters arrived for the festival. Lining up to swap tickets for wristbands was surprisingly painless. No half hour queues like I’d seen in previous years.

Silence The City

The first band I saw was Silence The City on the rock stage in TSB Arena. The day was still young so there wasn’t much of a crowd gathered in front of the stage. They played a short set of alt rock, complete with blinding strobe flashes at regular intervals. A few songs have got airtime on the radio recently and the crowd reacted well to those, along with a cover of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn”, that was quite different to last time I’d seen it played.

It seems that most shows have a standout member of the audience (like Amelia, the blonde girl at Dragonforce a few weeks ago). Well the star of the day at Homegrown was the bare-chested dancer at the rock stage. He was a bearded man with long hair and an open denim shirt who was tearing up the dance floor as if he owned it. He was effortlessly elegant and graceful as he strutted and twirled. The way he moved his feet was especially impressive, seeing as how the floor was so disgustingly sticky from all the spilled drinks the night before. I found myself spending more time watching his dancing than watching the band.I’d seen this same man at Westfest the previous week, dressed and dancing exactly the same during Soundgarden’s set.

Black River Drive

I like Black River Drive but I haven’t really followed them since I saw them about five years ago, when they were promoting Perfect Flaws. They have a nice light rock sound that still retains an edge. I noticed that they have a new drummer now, but still sound largely the same. It made for nice listening as I watched our nameless dancer friend boogie his day away at the back of the arena. BRD also get bonus points for having a bubble machine onstage.

Black River Drive Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Black River Drive.   Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Nothing scheduled for the next few hours was of interest, so my friends and I took some time to rest up for the night ahead. We bought some ice creams that melted almost instantly in the heat, and made sure to drink plenty of water.

David Dallas

Come 7pm I made my one foray away from the rock stage to the Pop and R&B stage for South Auckland rapper David Dallas. It certainly was a different crowd. Gone were the seas of black band t-shirts and heavily tattooed limbs, although there were plenty of #makehistory temporary tattoos that the Jim Beam girls had given out all day.

Dallas’s band, The Daylight Robbery, were absent due to Homegrown having been postponed. But this didn’t stop Dallas delivering a hit-heavy set. With a DJ manning the backing tracks, Dallas and long time collaborator Jordache tag teamed and performed songs from throughout Dallas’s entire career. If anything, losing his band let Dallas mix things up more. Sid Diamond joined him onstage for “Southside”, followed by another guest spot from PNC. Dallas was right at home onstage and he knew it. He smiled coyly and beckoned for more applause. He rapped a few pre-intro verses before finishing his set with “Runnin'”. It’s true: Not many can rock a show like this.

After wolfing down a burger and a punnet of chips we ventured back to the rock stage for rest of the night.

Blacklistt. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Blacklistt. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Blacklistt

Front-man Damien Alexander started off the set with a vicious rap, before Blacklistt gave their typically aggressive performance for the hard rock fans. They played to please, from the Blindspott stuff that we all wanted to hear to the newer Blacklistt songs that became the next step for the band. The reality is that Blindspott/Blacklistt are one and the same, save for legal dramas. Both have the syncopated beats, the pent-up anger, the DJ scratches, the high-pitched guitars, the reggae ballads… all those aspects that make up the overall sound. One interesting moment was when a chant started up between songs mid set, with half the crowd shouting “Blacklistt”, and the others chanting “Blindspott”.  Without being formulaic, the show was everything I’ve come to expect from the band – no matter what you choose to call them.

Shihad. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Shihad. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Shihad

I first saw Shihad play in 2008, at the first Homegrown festival when I was 16. Tonight was the twelfth time watching them play. And there’s a reason I keep coming back.

Shihad are rock legends, veterans of the stage who have played together for longer than I’ve been alive. They play every show with such energy that the audience can’t help but become infected by it. The way that front-man Jon Toogood punches the air with such force, and keeps the roadies panicking by climbing atop the speakers side of stage. The way the Karl Kippenberger plucks those bass strings in a way that you can’t help but move to. They way that Tom Larkin pummels those tight tribal patterns out of the drum skins. And although Phil Knight is the least showy, his guitar playing is vital for filling out the band’s sound. When the four of them play Wellington together, they make sure every time that it’s a homecoming to remember.

I actually watched Shihad play the same set the night beforehand. A large majority of the songs played were from the latest album FVEY, with their throbbing beats and abrasive riffs. Four were from The General Electric. The one hiccup was that Knights guitar sounded like it was tuned differently for “Home Again” on the Saturday night, something that was quickly remedied just after the bridge. I think this is the sign of a great live band, that I’d be more than happy to watch the same show two nights running, and not feel bored.

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song "Pacifier" for the encore on Sunday.

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

When I was a teenager my friends and I would road trip from our hometown of Nelson up to Wellington to attend Homegrown each year. After seven years I’ve already seen most of the bands on the lineup that I’m interested in multiple times. Even so, it still always proves to be a lot of fun. It’s easier now that I live in Wellington, and the lineup never varies much, but I can see myself happily attending more Homegrown festivals in years to come.

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Shihad at Riwaka Hotel, Nelson (FVEY tour)

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ShihadShihad

w/ The Datsuns, I Am Giant and Cairo Knife Fight

Riwaka Hotel, Nelson

Tuesday 30 December 2014

I last saw Shihad play Riwaka in 2010, promoting their previous album, Ignite. They’ve since released FVEY, a heavier nod to their first two albums. This is their first NZ tour in roughly two years, and they’ve brought some premier Kiwi rock bands on the road with them.


To my surprise, the music had already started when I arrived at 7.15pm. The tickets had advertised that doors open at 7pm, but bands don’t usually start until at least half an hour after doors open.

I only saw the last three songs because I was late, but Cairo Knife Fight put on yet another impressive set. It seems that they are the perpetual opening act for many notable rock bands. Drummer Nick Gaffaney continues to leave me in awe each time I see him play, dominating the drum kit as well as singing, playing synth bass and operating looping pedals. Ex-Weta guitarist Aaron Tokona wasn’t playing tonight, making me wonder if this has anything to do with his other band, Ahoribuzz, who are headlining New Years Eve celebrations in Nelson.

Their new single “Rezlord” from their forthcoming album reminded me of Muse, and the final song was rather Tool-esque. I love watching how two musicians can create such a full sound using effects and looping pedals. They had silly little moments in which they went wild making as much meaningless noise as possible, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the overall experience.


When I first saw I Am Giant in 2010 I thought they were pretty cool. “City Limits” had received regular airplay on the radio and they had released their début EP that week. I bought a copy of the EP at the show and their singer signed it for me and we had a great chat. How things have changed…

Since then their egos seemed to have skyrocketed and their performances haven’t improved at the same rate. Their singer Ed Martin has recently left to pursue a solo career and replacement singer Ryan Redman (ex-Exit Ten) has only exacerbated the inequality between the standard of the music and the pompous attitude of the band members. Redman is a twat. He clearly thought he was all that, making eyes at girls in the crowd and blowing kisses and thrusting. Too bad for him he couldn’t actually sing well. At first I thought his voice was hoarse because his collar had been buttoned up too tight around his neck, but it turns out he just wasn’t any good. He couldn’t hit the high notes and he could barely do justice to the rest of the singing. I Am Giant had the arrogant rock star attitude without the talent to match.


Australian rockers Airbourne were originally billed to play but have since been replaced by The Datsuns. I’ve seen both bands a few times each in the past and I prefer The Datsuns spacey garage-rock over Airbourne’s AC/DC impersonations.

And I’m glad for the lineup change.The skinny Cambridge rockers got thrust into the limelight when NME called named them “Best Live Band” in 2002, and they’re still killing it over a decade later. I swear they were all dressed exactly the same as last time I saw them play, a few years ago. Three of them had long hair and they were all worryingly thin. To add to their classic rocker appearance, the drummer played a transparent perspex drum kit like the kind Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham used to play.

The music was relentlessly energetic and they worked the crowd well. Rudolf, the singer, had everyone sit down and instructed us that once the band let loose we were all expected to “jump up and go bananas”. They had us clapping along and singing the ‘woahs’. One standout song was “That’s What You Get” from the new album Deep Sleep. Of course, they played the obligatory hits as well.

During their set a drunk bogan hi-fived me and told me “The Datsuns are the epitome of New Zealand rock music!”. Well, I don’t know about epitome, but other Kiwi artists could certainly learn a thing or two from them.


The lights dimmed, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” rang through the speakers, and then the almighty Shihad tore into their set. They opened with the visceral single “Think You’re So Free”. I was excited to hear them play new heavy material from their new album, FVEY. Songs from Churn and Killjoy always go down a treat, as do heavier songs like “My Mind’s Sedate”. But The FVEY songs didn’t make the same impact.

The new songs are certainly aggressive, but they are also quite long and don’t change much. I like it heavy, but I need more variety. Being pummeled by such a consistent barrage of bass got a bit boring. Lead guitarist Phil Knight needed to be louder in the mix. He usually brings some treble into the foreground to balance out the sound, but was lost to the murkier low-end.

Frontman Jon Toogood vehemently dedicated one song to our prime-minister,  making it very clear that this was not a respectful act. There was a built up anger that shone through the songs.

Over half the set consisted of new material. I actually preferred the older, more familiar songs. As always, Shihad were tight and professional and energetic. They delivered a blistering show like only veterans of the stage can. It was enjoyable, but the new songs didn’t appeal as much as I’d anticipated.


There were a few surprises for me tonight. Cairo Knife Fight had a new guitarist. I Am Giant’s new singer was rubbish. Shihad’s heavy new material isn’t actually that exciting live and The Datsuns stole the show. Overall it was a great night out.

Shihad's set list.  Eight of the songs are from the new album, FVEY. The pick belonged to bass player Karl Kippenberger

Shihad’s set list. Eight of the songs are from the new album, FVEY. The pick belonged to bass player Karl Kippenberger

Album Review: Shihad – FVEY

Shihad FVEY vinyl record cover
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Last time I saw Shihad play was on Boxing Day a few years back in Lower Hutt – the eternal dwelling place of the bogan. The band played a few songs from each of their releases in chronological sequence, starting with their début EP Devolve, and concluding with their most recent album, Ignite. It was a good cross-section of their history, showcasing their sound as it evolved from the speed metal of their formative days through to the more radio-friendly songs of recent years. The downside to this was that as the show progressed it became clear that Shihad’s later releases pale in comparison to their more aggressive early works. In my opinion Shihad had peaked with The General Electric.

This is why FVEY (pronounced Five Eyes) makes me so happy. It’s a nod to Churn and Killjoy, but with the use of production and mastering technologies 20 years more advanced. Listening to the album teaser was enough to make my hairs stand on end. Being able to the blast the finished product on 180 gram vinyl is a glorious experience.

No doubt Jaz Coleman played a part in this. His influence was unmistakable in the brutal industrial metal that was Churn, and lingering traces could still be felt in the raw anger of Killjoy. And once again the Killing Joke singer has returned to the producer’s chair to impart his wisdom. This record was one of the last to be recorded at Coleman’s York Street studios, allowing the band good use of one of New Zealand’s premium recording studios.

Coleman can still be heard in this record, both musically and thematically.  Title tack ‘FVEY’ sounds like it could comfortably be part of Killing Joke’s 2010 release Absolute Dissent, and some of Jon Toogood’s lyrics resemble those of the songs on Killing Joke’s MMXII.  Anger, distrust of the authorities and conspiracy theories seem to be common themes throughout.

It’s raw but at the same time clean. They’ve captured the heaviness without muddy distortion. Not an easy feat, seeing as how the guitars are drop-tuned so ridiculously low. Frontman Jon Toogood has described the record as “intense” and “blistering”. He’s not wrong.

Where did the band re-discover this energy and determination? The album title FVEY points towards paranoia over our international spy network. Maybe something to do with a fat German millionaire buying off our politicians? No doubt Shihad are riled up about various social injustices, and FVEY is the creative by-product of these feelings.

I’ve always loved Shihad. I own every album and watch them live every time they come to town. It was always a given that I’d be buying FVEY. But this time round I feel safe recommending this album to my friends, not something I could have said about the band’s recent outputs like Ignite or Beautiful Machine.

Killjoy-era Shihad is back in form. And with an accompanying tour promised; I find this very exciting.

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Shihad at Riwaka Hotel, Nelson (Ignite tour)

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This review was originally posted on the Rip It Up website. It has since been taken down because Rip It Up merged with Groove Guide and redid their site.

Shihad

w/ Cairo Knife Fight and The Naked and Famous

Riwaka Hotel, Nelson

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Opening act tonight was Cairo Knife Fight who, despite only having only two members, created a huge wall of sound by employing the usage of looping pedals. Particularly impressive was Nick Gaffaney’s phenomenal drumming. How he manages to sing, drum and play bass on the synth with his left hand whilst operating the looping pedal simultaneously I’ll never know. Who said men can’t multi-task? Their moody, ambient sound would have better suited a later slot once the sun had set, but their playing can’t really be faulted.

The Naked and Famous attracted more attention, the tent becoming noticeably more crowded once they’d started playing. Their style is one that has become trendy of late, dual softly sung vocals over electric sounds and synthesisers. Not what you’d typically expect from an act opening for veteran rockers, but they elicited a favourable reaction from the crowd regardless

As good as the first two bands were, they were nothing compared to the headliners. Chants for the band had been erupting intermittently all night, and when Shihad finally came onstage, they did not disappoint.

It was everything you’d expect from a Shihad show. Sing along songs, aggressive songs, jump up and down songs, old songs, recent songs. With 22 years of experience under their belts, there was really no possibility that they couldn’t deliver the goods. This gig was mainly a showcase of their latest album, Ignite, which made up nearly half the setlist. The rest constituted mainly of songs from General Electric and Pacifier, the band’s two most commercially successful albums.

One highlight was the song ‘Sleepeater’ that they closed with. Although they have played it live before, at the time it was an unreleased track they were previewing to the crowd. This was probably the first time it had been played in New Zealand that people actually knew it, and it worked well, as did all the new songs. Once they’d left the stage the crowd started chanting again. “SHIHAD, SHIHAD!”

The encore was ‘Envy’, from Killjoy, and their parting song was the wave-your-lighters-in-the-air ballad ‘Pacifier’.

The crowd kept the chant going for a good five minutes or more after Shihad had finished their encore. I was surprised that the band didn’t come back on; the crowd reaction was so strong.

I walked away with ringing ears (despite the fact I wore earplugs), and with ridiculously muddy shoes. Tonight was my sixth time seeing Shihad live. I can’t wait to see them for a seventh time at Big Day Out.

 

Joseph James