Serj Tankian

Liverpool Carling Academy

2nd September 2008.

Since leaving System of a Down on the indefinite back burner, Serj Tankian has continued to pursue his own personal, and very political, vision through his solo material, and here in Liverpool tonight, he cuts an imposing figure in the flesh.

Like with System, his solo songs are stirring, moody and musically multi-layered, and he builds his set into a rock opera filled with hope and despair. When working on this scale, it’s very easy to become overblown and empty, but his burning intensity and obvious sincerity keep things rooted on a personal level. It’s an intoxicating combination.

Despite the complexity of his songs musically, there’s usually no doubt what he’s singing about. His fast and tightly-controlled vocal delivery owes something to hip-hop, and his scatter-gun, but deep, lyrics are clear moral rage in a confused world, with ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ being a classic example. His music manages to make your heart race and your mind reflect at the same time, a difficult combination to master.

Then, he inflicts a Beatles cover upon us, ‘Girl’. Oh no touring American bands, when will you learn? We get enough of that every day in Liverpool. At least it’s a fairly original choice and, actually, it really suits his voice. But when Serj then announces an ABBA cover, it seems like a step too far, but the theatrics and message of ‘Money Money Money’ suit him perfectly.

Towards the end of the set, he moves into more expansive and experimental angles. We’re not sure how well he wears it. Tankian is still at his best when running up and down crumbling emotional rollercoasters, and he sensibly ends like this with ‘Empty Walls’. Though we are still left a little wanting for one of those big System anthems, Tankian remains a great performer and one of the more powerful and original voices in metal and music.

By Kenn Taylor