I’ve never made a secret of my love of Shihad. While I haven’t been the most devoted of fans – there’s more than a few of their albums that I never bought (or even listened to, tbh) – I do try to get along to their live shows whenever I can. Such was the case a couple of years ago when I jumped at the chance to review their show at 170 Russell on the FVEY tour. It was my first time seeing them in 6 years but ultimately I left disappointed at the lack of variety in the setlist as they played their new record in full, plus about 8 other tracks. On Saturday night the kiwi rockers hit The Croxton, playing the last show of their tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their eponymous third album. I headed along, perhaps hoping for some kind of redemption. Or maybe just a reminder of why, after all these years, I still regard Shihad so highly.

The lights dimmed and Shihad took to the stage, rapidly unleashing the one-two punch of ‘Home Again’ and ‘Ghost From The Past’ just as they sit at the head of the album fondly referred to as “The Fish Album” by fans and the band alike. I’d just gotten myself prepared for the idea of another full album show when Jon Toogood thanked the crowd for coming out and said they wanted to play some of their favourites from the last twenty years. They played two more off Shihad before treating us to one of my favourites, ‘Interconnecter’ off the Blue Light Disco EP. The band hit their stride as they released the trinity of ‘Wait and See,’ ‘The General Electric’ and ‘My Mind’s Sedate’ and the crowd rose with them, both in energy and altitude with the first crowdsurfer of the night getting up. Tom Larkin’s snare drum was the first and only casualty of the night though, giving out halfway through ‘My Mind’s Sedate’ – but no-one made too much of it and he had to get Toogood to stretch out the intro to ‘Pacifier,’ the fourth and last song off The General Electric, while he replaced it.

I was already feeling weird about the clunky setlist, unsure why we were just getting clusters of songs from each album, when Toogood started talking about FVEY in preparation, and I instantly knew what four songs they were going to play. I was a little concerned when they jumped from 1998 to 2014 in their chronology, but hoped they might head backwards again to some of their other records. I was totally unsurprised though when they introduced ‘Cheap As’ as the last song of the set. I checked the time – it was barely past midnight –  and thought they could have played a little longer. It felt like no time had passed at all because only an hour had. The crowd wanted some more, so started the classic ‘Shihad’ chant and as the band returned, Jon Toogood remarked “That shit never gets old. It’s been happening for 28 years and it still sounds good to me. Especially when we were called Pacifier.” They went way further back in time for the encore, busting out ‘Factory’ and ending with ‘You Again’ from Killjoy, another of my favourites. Yet I still left The Croxton fairly disappointed.

As always, Shihad played brilliantly but, for what I’d pegged as a retrospective show, I felt the setlist was a let down. By grouping the songs the way they did, and by really only looking at a few albums, they just didn’t deliver the justice their discography deserves. I started to wonder where the rest of the songs I loved were: the tracks from Love Is The New Hate; or their eponymous album from when they were known as Pacifier and I felt shortchanged yet again. I also thought they could have done a bit better in terms of creating an interesting setlist – especially seeing one of my issues with their last show was that I didn’t get to hear the new songs as they’d fit in a standard set, and I guess I still haven’t.

Unfortunately, it’s the second show in a row that I have walked away from underwhelmed, which is a difficult thing for any fan to admit to. But am I done with Shihad? Probably not. In fact, I’m sure I’ll see them again; and I’ll still be singing along with everyone else.

Wes Fahey

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