Shihad are 26 years deep into their career and it seemed, with their last few albums, that they might be about ready to bow out with a whimper. Beautiful Machine and Ignite didn’t exactly annouce themselves in the same way, say, 1999’s The General Electric did.
However, if the crushing heaviness, killer grooves and Jon Toogood ‘s rousing politically charged vocals, FVEY – pronounced Five Eyes – proves one thing, it is that this band are not ready to go anywhere. To use a cliché that’s been thrown around since its release last month, “FVEY is a return to form” and aren’t we glad to have Shihad back at their vitriolic best.
So tonight, on one of the biggest nights of the Brisbane Festival with the likes of Phil Jamieson playing across town, Shihad are doing something they’ve never done before. They’ve chosen a smaller venue and they’re playing a one-off showcase to the few hundred 20 and 30-somethings lucky enough to snap up one of the limited tickets available.
Tonight fans are converging on The Zoo in the valley to relive the good old days and catch one of New Zealand’s most legendary rock bands as they thrash out their new album along with maybe a classic or two.
With the sold out crowd building, Melbournites The Sinking Teeth appear on stage and proceed to hurtle through a set of tight, loud raucous post-punk tracks that sound so big they make you wonder if there isn’t a small army of additional guitarists playing off-stage. Having toured relentlessly for the past year off the back of their acclaimed White Water EP, The Sinking Teeth have built a strong following all over the country and tonight they certainly live up to their hard-forged reputation with a no frills, frenetic 40 minutes earning them their fair share of new fans and CD sales.
After a short break and and no fan-fare as Jon Toogood and co hit the stage and from the first distorted note of ‘Think You’re So Free’, The Zoo is in a state of hysteria with Toogood’s menacing voice guiding it’s throes as he bellows “our freedom is already sold”.What follows is FVEY, in full, with all of its no bullshit, frenzied, angst-ridden massiveness.
Toogood and bassist Karl Kippenberger are in an energetic mood as they trade “this riff is massive” rock faces with one another as lead guitarist Phil Knight is content to stand in their shadow deligently hitting all the right notes in the frequently non-standard time signatures.
Often frantic with inklings of paranoia Shihad have produced several tracks here focused on privacy concerns, Snowden leaks and Government conspiracy. It is the most political the band have ever sounded and that might be why FVEY seems so genuine in its delivery. The title track about the much publicised Government surveilance really hammering home the point as Toogood sings through the chorus “five eyes, looking down”.
By the time they reach the unsettling ‘Grey Area’ – dedicating it to the PM and Scott Morrison – Shihad are well in the groove and the crowd is with them. This is their first show of 2014 and the first time they’ve played an album in full but the crowd is lapping it up with ‘Model Citizen’ and album closer ‘Cheap As (Fuck)’ – filling its seven minutes with crowd assisted choruses – proving themselves some of the best tracks of the band’s career.
Returning to satisfy long-time fans, the band send us on our way with a three song back catalogue compendium of ‘You Again’, ‘Home Again’ and a killer version of ‘The General Electric’ sounding every bit as relevant as it did when it catapaulted the Kiwis into the Australian alt-rock consciousness in the late 90s.
Scribbled hyperbole on a notepad in a shakey hand can’t do this band or their live presense justice. You need to see them for yourself. Again. And not for old time’s sake. But because Shihad are still, after nearly three decades, one the most vital and relevant components of the Australasian rock landscape.