I have a lot of love for Shihad. They’ve put out some great records in their 20 year career and in that time they’ve changed their sound, their name (technically twice), their hairstyles and (at least partially) their citizenships. One thing that has stayed constant since the beginning is the quality and intensity of their live shows, and that was exactly what I was looking forward to as I headed in to 170 Russell to see them live for the first time in 6 years.

Cairo Knife Fight kicked off the night with a larger than average crowd for a first support. This is their first ‘real’ tour of Australia and obviously their buzz preceded them: the crowd was energised and ready for whatever they threw at them. And throw they did. The duo played guitar, drums, synths and sang – often all at once – and other times with the help of loops they recorded on the fly. Their set showed why they’ve been a top choice as a support band for some very big international acts and for this tour.

Locals High Tension brought a new (old) drummer and some fresh tunes but weirdly seemed to get off to a lukewarm start with the audience, with only a handful of people getting into it for the first few. One impressed fan made his feelings known, yelling “What a fuckin’ voice! You beauty!” just before they kicked into the brilliant ‘Collingwood’. A new song sandwiched between ‘Without US’ and ‘Mountain of Dead’ got the crowd into the mood and their ending pair of ‘High Risk, High Rewards’ and ‘Are You Safe?’ converted those still on the fence.

The lights dimmed and a chant of “SHIHAD! SHIHAD!” was quickly overpowered by Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’. The four New Zealanders stood on stage while the lights strobed and a curtain at the back opened and revealed the skull from the FVEY album cover while the ‘Shihad’ chant started up again. Jon Toogood kicked into the riff from ‘Think You’re So Free’ and the heavy guitars and pounding drums of the album opener got the crowd’s energy up straight away, and they kept it that way as Shihad ripped straight into the new album’s title track. After four songs, Toogood took to the mic and said “Thank you for coming out and rocking with Shihad. This song is called ‘The Living Dead.’ Let’s all jump up and down for this one. Follow my riff.” It was at that point that I realised what I probably should have identified from the posters: they were playing FVEY in full.

Now I understand that Shihad are proud of their latest release, and why shouldn’t they be? FVEY is a great record – truly one of their best and definitely their angriest – I just don’t think any of the fans were prepared for what Shihad were delivering. It didn’t take long for me to lose a lot of my own excitement and I knew I wasn’t alone when, after ‘The Great Divide,’ a guy in front of me yelled out “Play some old school!.” FVEY still had 4 more songs though, including the final track ‘Cheap As Fuck’ which had the crowd moving and shouting back at the band. It was only afterwards that Shihad finally played some old stuff, returning to the stage to play ‘Factory’ from their 1993 debut, and ending with ‘Home Again’ from their self-titled record.

The 6 song encore was the peak of the show for the crowd who, even though they were treated to an awesome performance of FVEY in full, had really just waited all night for their favourites. I think I was mostly disappointed because I didn’t get to hear many of mine.

Wes Fahey


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