Serj Tankian @ Birmingham Academy – 20th August 2008


Well, we’ve had to wait four months longer than originally planned, but System of a Down’s madcap leader is finally here in Birmingham, so let the fun and games commence. With the timing of this rescheduled show, tonight also doubles up as a warm-up for Mr Tankian’s performance at Reading and Leeds this weekend, giving us Midlanders something of a sneak peak of what the bigger crowds will be treated to.


Opening things up are British three-piece Inme. The Essex rockers have been around for what seems like an age, without never really making it as big as they should be. Their early offerings had to survive the nu metal fallout, and since then this talented band have slipped under the radar a touch, something that, on tonight’s showing, is difficult to understand. Lead superbly by singer/guitarist Dave McPherson’s effortless tapping and general shred wizardry, Inme are quite something on stage. They are technical without over-doing it, and their choruses hold enough melody for you to enjoy them on first listen. How this trio have never really exploded here in the UK when they can perform like this is, quite frankly, criminal.


And so, onto the main event. With two minutes to go until show time, the Academy is filled with chants of “We want Serj!”, before the lights go down, the intro music starts and pandemonium ensues. The backing band appear first, dressed in black shirts with black top hats, before Serj joins them, his outfit white to mark him out as the leader. With a manic grin, they launch into “Empty Walls”, and the crowd sing along to every word — underlining his appeal in this country. The whole setlist is taken from Serj’s debut solo offering ‘Elect the Dead’, an album that is certainly not just a rehashed SOAD record, more a collection of songs that show Tankian’s maturity.


The band rattles through the 17-song list, which includes impressive tracks like “Sky is Over” and “Lie Lie Lie”. While his music does display more subtlety than System, and his songs are original and clever, they do also have the tendency to sound very similar to one another. It’s almost as if Serj has found a formula that works and is sticking to it. However, his on stage charisma and permanent cheek to cheek grin keeps the interest, and the enjoyment that his is clearly getting out of his music filters through to the watching crowd and is mirrored back at him.


There is very little interaction in between songs, but then, he never has been much of a talker. His outfit gives him the appearance of a contorted circus master, and he continues to fire his troops through more clever pieces of music like “Saving Us”, “Baby” and the absurdly titled “Beethoven’s C*nt”. The reasonably sized crowd lap every note up ravenously, and by the time they leave the stage after the end of “The Unthinking Majority” you get the feeling that Serj is more than going it alone. And why not, when you have such a solid collection of songs to play. Anyone who came here tonight to see Serj playing his other band’s hits will have been disappointed, but hopefully they will also have been converted. This is where Serj Tankian is at right now, and with a few more ideas on future songs, he could easily carve out a successful solo career for himself.


Review & Photos – Dave Musson

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