Serj Tankian (plus Viza)@ Shepherds Bush Empire


(beware, this gig report may contain an high percentage of fangirl-hype)

Last Sunday night I finally acknowledged what ‘catharsis’ is. Catharsis is a Greek word that reflect the concepts of purgation, purification and clarification, and yes, sometimes, during some concerts, you can feel this inner link between you and all the other hundreds of people in the crowd, and it is purely magic.
Sunday was the day I have been expecting for a while, as two of my favourite artists were playing in the same place.As introduction, I may clarify that I saw Serj Tankian in Milan four years ago, then again with Viza supporting in Bologna. Seeing them together again at Shepherds Bush Empire was pure ecstasy. They combine passion, energy and, well, grabbing music.

As I step in the venue, I am welcomed by a surprise set by Hollywood Arson Project, a band mainly composed by Serj’s musicians. We arrived halfway through, but still it was a good combination of hard rock and stoner, a bit heavier than expected, and worth a second listen.
After having explored the venue, I finally spot the best location, marking out (figuratively) my territory. Viza are the first to step on stage with “Trans-Siberian Standoff”, a quick, folkloristic gypsies rock anthem, and you can do nothing, but dancing around going nuts. Alongside the music itself, the band on stage is zestful and magnetic, technically accurate and jammed in Eastern refrains and varied influences. Frontman Knoup Tomopoulos and his suit surely stand out – girls, you can barely take off your eyes from him: he is the perfect blend of a circus director and a opera singer, conveying high peaks of emotional passion (,“Viktor”, originally ft. Serj). Finally, the icing on the cake; halfway through the set the band performs the only acceptable cover of “Alabama Song” (at least for me, aka the ultimate Doors addict). The track is more lyrical than Jim’s bluesy and playful version, turning into a powerful sonata or an Eastern fanfare, if you like.

After the warm up, I try to sneak out and get Knoup and the others to get “Made in Chernobyl” signed, failing miserably as Serj’s set is starting. And again, to state the obvious, Serj is flawless and smiling, energetic from the beginning till the closure with “Empty Walls”. As he tends to speed up the songs live (I suppose to play more tracks), he covers most of “Elect the Dead” and “Harakiri”, neglecting “Imperfect Harmonies”. Being the Harakiri world tour, Serj balanced some new tracks with the well-known sing-along ones, also giving us a proof of his dancing skills on the closure of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”. As epilogue of this endless report, I need to spend a couple of words on the encore: “Aerials”; not just because it is “Aerials”, but also because of the atmosphere that all in a sudden you could tangibly feel around you in Shepherds Bush Empire. After nodding at each other baffled (it took us two notes to get the song), the audience was singing along, hundreds of voices merging into one, most of us in an ecstatic state, as also the musicians provided impeccable accompaniment, making most of us feel teenagers again (excluding the teenagers, of course).
Therefore, thank you Viza, thank you Serj, and as they say all good things come in three’s. Or possibly four’s.


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