System of a Down at Reading Festival

August 24, 2013

Out they stroll, glorious comic book rock figures with beards and wide eyes. They gently strum into the giant ‘Aerials’ and many an arm is raised to the sky. It’s a bit sticky in parts early on during the set. A singalong is encouraged for ‘Soldier Slide’ but only the more dedicated fans join in, however everybody stepped up when it erupted into a smeltering ‘B.Y.O.B’.

They’re at their best when they’re dangerous, teetering on a knife-edge of sanity and utter chaos. Even when you know the songs, they’re still thrilling and unprediBLAST OFF! IT’S PARTY TIME! See, it’s fun. Not only that, but a lot of their political sentiments still hold a fair bit of weight. Far more than many of the rebellious GCSE student statements that Green Day have yelped out in their time.

A sound like this would date very badly if not done well, it has the potential to be utterly terrible and it makes you shudder to think about some of the atrocious copycat bands that must have sprung up in the early 2000s. But it’s still exciting, and Serj’s manic grin acts as a striking conduit to some of his sharp observations and rants. Him sitting at the front of the stage as he sings the first verse of ‘Toxicity’ is wonderfully childlike. The mutating sounds of ‘Deer Dance’ are a quick guide to how this band rotate different atmosphere’s all within the scope of one song, it also saw bassist Shavo standing atop his amp while rumbling away.

The three biggest crowd reactions for the set are for ‘Chop Suey’, set closer ‘Sugar’, and for a man crowdsurfing in a camping chair while reading the paper. All of which are very understandable. Serj forgot part of a verse (the hardest one) during Sugar and it was wonderfully played off by Darren, the pair seemed to be perfectly in-sync. The band could’ve handled longer than the hour they were given, but this smash n’ grab type set is perfect for them to win over newer sections of the crowd. Most of the people who were already fans would have likely seen them bust out full sets anyway. But given how small the crowd was for Deftones (you could get pretty close to the stage without making any contact with another human) it was reassuring to see another cerebral 90s/00s Rock/Metal band were still able to attract a vast audience.

With no new album in 8 years and another one not currently scheduled they are meandering awfully close to nostalgia. Treading water isn’t the best look for a band who made their name smashing down walls. But for now this will do; a tight smattering of good songs with some that helped to define a generation. That’s what people here wanted, that’s what they got. Job done.

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