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.