LOS ANGELES — “I just think speeches, they get boring after a while,” System of a Down singer Serj Tankian said backstage before the Souls 2004 concert Saturday, the day Armenians recognize the Armenian genocide each year.
And boring this band is not.
So in what was one the most emotional and political shows of their lives, the four Armenians in System of a Down let their music do the talking.
With thousands of Armenian fans waving flags and singing along to Tankian’s complex prose, the band charged through 20-some anthems before culminating with the most blatant explanation of what the evening was about, a bumblebee of a song called “P.L.U.C.K. (Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers).”
“A whole race genocide/ Taken away all of our pride,” Tankian sang at the benefit for the Armenian National Committee of America, which is lobbying the U.S. Congress to officially recognize the Armenian genocide (see “System Of A Down Plan Benefit For Genocide Awareness” ). “Revolution, the only solution/ We’ve taken all your sh–, now it’s time for restitution.”
At a typical System concert, “Chop Suey!” or “Toxicity” are the show-stealers (and they were certainly among the favorites Saturday), but at the Greek Theatre event, “P.L.U.C.K.” was the ultimate finale. That guitarist Daron Malakian sang an Armenian song just before it only made “P.L.U.C.K.” more moving.
“[Preaching about the genocide] is not what we want to do,” Tankian said. “We want to do what we do best, which is show our emotions through our music.”
From the operatic opening of “Aerials” to the sheer intensity of “Roulette,” Saturday’s show was packed with emotions, the most visible being anger. On “Prison Song,” Malakian added some words to make the song more about the war in Iraq than overcrowded prisons, while on “Mind,” Tankian changed a lyric to “Bush is gonna let you mother——s die.”
Before the show, Tankian criticized the president, who in a speech earlier that afternoon mourned the loss of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks between 1895 and 1915 but refused to call it genocide.
“Most presidential delegates before they become president promise that they’re going to officially recognize it as a genocide,” Tankian said. “Once they become president … based on their own needs, concerns and political alliances, they decide not to do so. John Kerry at this time is actually saying that he’s going to instate it as a genocide when he gets elected, but that’s what Bush said before he got elected. So it’s all a matter of I’m not going to wait for these guys to decide for me. It’s us. We tell the people. The people know about it. Once the American people know the truth, then when [the politicians] lie, they’ll look like idiots.”
System of a Down educated their fans about the genocide at the second annual Souls concert with a short documentary shown before their performance and with 10 educational booths outside the theatre.
Hours before the show began, the booths were packed with fans, many of whom carried Armenian flags and came from a parade earlier in the day.
“It’s not a celebration, it’s more of a remembrance,” bassist Shavo Odadjian said of the festivities. “It’s paying tribute to those that died for no reason.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.