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Last year, just days before two highly anticipated triumphant October hometown shows in Los Angeles, System of a Down (SOAD) was forced to postpone.  Unfortunately lead vocalist Serj Tankian had tested positive for Covid.  The L.A. dates were rescheduled for February 2022, along with two new shows added in Phoenix and San Diego.  I was fortunate to attend the October SOAD concert in Fresno just prior to the postponed L.A. shows. It was an incredible show (see my review of that HERE). After seeing that crazy good Fresno show, with co-headliner Korn, I was definitely excited for the opportunity to see these two top shelf rock bands again.  Especially since it only required a 30-minute drive to the Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State, as opposed to the 5-hour trek to Fresno last year.

Exploding into the low tuned piledriving funky beat of the opener “Here to Stay”, it was clear Korn was bringing their “A-game” to San Diego.  Lead singer Jonathan Davis and the boys brought an extra gear of energy compared to the show last Fall. Perhaps they were all fired up for the release of their new album, Requiem, which was just three days away.  Korn gave the audience a taste of the new album with “Start the Healing”, a tune at first listen seemed to have all the important Korn elements -mid-tempo driving beat, heavy as shit guitars, intense aggressive vocals.  Other highlights were Davis’ bagpipe intro for “Shoots and Ladders”, and a few lesser played but sick tunes like the upbeat “Ya’ll Want a Single” and the sing along classic “A.D.I.D.A.S.” (shortened version, better than nothing).  The show climaxed perfectly with the tune that started it all, the first single off the very first album, “Blind”.  Borrowing from Davis’ famous introductory phrase on this song , the new Korn album is out February 4th…”ARE YOU READY?!”  I am!

A System of a Down show is an intense memorable experience.  With over 40 million records sold worldwide, the band’s catalog is deep, dynamic and inspiring.  Serj is back strong after his bout with Covid, and as expected, the band delivered a wildly entertaining show and connected in a special way with the audience.  Not seeing a need to rehash the show in detail again, I decided to explore the phenomenon of why this band remains fiercely popular and continues to sell out arenas 17 years after their last studio album?  What is it about this band that seems to resonate with music fans?  I spoke directly with many of System’s loyal fans to seek insights:

Patrick, from the Instagram fan site “Victims of a Down” (with an impressive 39k followers), says “SOAD stands the test of time. Their songs and messages are even more relevant today as they were back in the 2000s.  Raising awareness for the Armenian genocide and the situation in Artsakh shows how important that band is. Now only to me and fans but for a whole country and generations to come.”

Rose from Chula Vista explained that she loved SOAD in high school, but eventually viewed them as cheesy.  Now in her 30’s she describes a renewed appreciation for the band, with their social messages and unique sound.  “Their music gives me the chills!”, she said excitedly.

Mike from Oxnard proudly proclaimed, “Their music is timeless, and their performances are always unique and powerful.”

George from Ontario, “SOAD won’t follow a formula in their music, and they sing about literally anything.  One song can be screaming facts about the prison system while the next song is talking about pulling tapeworm out of you.”

I had great conversations with many fans who are now in their 30s and 40s who grew up with SOAD during the post millennia glory years.  Perhaps back in the day, some had been young naïve fans who simply loved rocking out to new heavy music.  Now older and wiser, they now realize and appreciate the deeper wisdom intertwined in the music.  But many fans seemed to be longtime loyalists from the very beginning.  Their deep passion for the band burning bright and hot as ever.

The fan connection is real, tangible at every SOAD show I’ve attended – you can feel it in the air, thick as a Louisiana summer day.  The energy and passion fans possess for System of a Down is truly special!

Be well and keep rockin’ - Greg Vitalich


Greg Vitalich

Photojournalist - San Diego

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