System Of A Down Make The Political Personal At Souls 2005

Group marks Armenian genocide with first U.S. concert in a year.

UNIVERSAL CITY, California — It was mesmerizing and hypnotizing even if System of a Down’s first U.S. concert in a year didn’t feature much from the band’s upcoming Mezmerize/Hypnotize.

At Sunday’s Souls 2005, the band’s annual benefit held on the day Armenians recognize the Armenian genocide each year, System played only three tracks from their new double album (see “System Of A Down Shoot Fiery ‘B.Y.O.B.’ Clip, Find Inspiration In Fistfights” ), instead treating the sold-out Gibson Amphitheatre crowd to a flood of familiar favorites.

The 25-song set, however, did kick off with new single “B.Y.O.B.” (see “System Of A Down Want Your Bombs, Plan Third Souls Concert” ), which had the audience singing along to the disco chorus, “Everybody’s going to the party/ Have a real good time,” while singer Serj Tankian got his groove on.

After returning to more familiar territory with “Science,” the band debuted “Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll” from Hypnotize, a roller coaster of a tune that goes up and down a few times before ending in a crescendo of screams from Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian.

“When I was a little boy, I talked to Superman and he told me to kill rock and roll and f— all you sexy people,” Malakian said before breaking into the opening guitar riff.

With his, ahem, interesting song introductions, nonstop animated facial expressions, and occasional sprints or twirls across the stage, the guitarist stole the crowd’s attention from the get-go and never gave it back.

“We didn’t start this band to change the world,” he announced prior to “Aerials.” “We didn’t start this band to change your mind. We started this band to make you ask questions.”

Later in the show, following hits like “Chop Suey” and “Spiders,” the band played the second and final Mezmerize tune, “Cigaro.” Judging by how loudly fans sang along, it was apparently downloaded widely after being leaked onto the Internet earlier this year (see “For System Of A Down, Sometimes A ‘Cigaro’ Is Just A ‘Cigaro’ “ ).

As with last year’s Souls concert (see “System Of A Down Mark Genocide By Playing, Not Preaching” ), the group fittingly ended the show with “P.L.U.C.K. (Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers),” which includes the verse “A whole race genocide/ Taken away all of our pride/ Revolution, the only solution/ We’ve taken all your sh–/ Now it’s time for restitution.”

Before the show began, the band played a video about the Armenian genocide in which the Ottoman Turks killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians between 1895 and 1915 (see “System Of A Down Plan Benefit For Genocide Awareness” ).

“It’s a better thing for me inside, because we’re doing it for a purpose. We’re not just playing a show, we’re trying to do something special for us and our people,” bassist Shavo Odadjian said backstage. “We say all the time that this isn’t just a political issue for us, it’s personal. So there’s energy when we’re doing this, because the people watching are feeling it too.”

Proceeds from Sunday’s show benefited several organizations, including Amnesty International, Center for the Prevention of Genocide, and Axis of Justice, Tankian’s political action group with Tom Morello.

While Sunday’s show featured only three new tunes, the band said its somewhat guerrilla (shows are announced less than a week in advance) club tour will include more new material. “It’s gonna be tough to decide the set, because there’s so many songs from our old list we don’t want to let go,” Malakian said. “But we might have to.”

Only four of the tour’s 10 dates have so far been announced: Monday (April 25) at the Fillmore in San Francisco, Wednesday at Ogden Theatre in Denver, Friday at the Granada in Dallas, and Saturday at the Music Hall in Austin. The band recently played three similar scaled-down club shows in Europe.

“We played a 600-seater in France that was amazing,” Odadjian said. “I got so excited when I saw the place. Just vibewise, with the crowd, it was amazing.”

“These venues are too big,” said drummer John Dolmayan. “I’d like to do 200- to 300-seaters all across the country.”

Souls 2005 set list:


  • “B.Y.O.B.”

  • “Science”

  • “Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll”

  • “Suggestions”

  • “Psycho”

  • “Chop Suey”

  • “Mr. Jack”

  • “Needles”

  • “Deer Dance”

  • “Aerials”

  • “Holy Mountains”

  • “Spiders”

  • “Streamline”

  • “Bounce”

  • “Atwa”

  • “Forest”

  • “Cigaro”

  • “Highway Song”

  • “War?”

  • “Prison Song”

  • “Roulette”

  • “Toxicity”

  • “Suite-Pee”

  • “Sugar”

  • “P.L.U.C.K.”

For more on System of a Down and Mezmerize/Hypnotize check out the feature “Doubleheader.”

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.