Live Review: Shihad @ The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – 6 September 2012

Review by Ben Connolly
Boldness is not generally an adjective jumping to mind when you think of Kiwi band Shihad. With its skinny black-jeans clad legs planted firmly in the safe melodic-tinged rock scene pushed forth as the genre de jour of the late 90s and early 00s, you’d hardly seek out their albums to push boundaries or explore sonic adventures. Even more so in the past few years, where they’ve rotated around the all-too-familiar downward spiral of record-promote-tour-hope for relevance-rinse-repeat: it’s hardly a recipe for the cutting edge.

There is, however, an impressive boldness with the simple honesty with which they’ve approached their career crossroads moment: shunning the best-ofs and karaoke tour of their past glories in favour of a 38-song full career retrospective (a completist’s wet dream), a fly-on-the-wall cinema doco exposing the bands lowest moment of changing their name in a doomed attempt to storm the US market, and topping it all off with a solid live whip-around aimed squarely at the true believers.

This honesty came to fore as they took to The Hi-Fi’s darkened stage to the whoops and hollers of the faithful cabal; most of whom in the packed room know what to expect from the next hour or so and are still rabid in anticipation, even more so in the knowledge that this will be a chronological account of the band’s past. Perhaps there’s even a sense of relief in not having to sift through earnest deliveries of new-album fillers in order to revel in the killers. Still, the success of bookending a mid-career high with little known teenaged anthems and latter career fluff was yet to be proved.

Riff-tastic ball-tearers from 1990 EP Churn position the quartet back as their teenaged selves and it’s not hard to see through the crunch and glimpse the sheer delight the group still has in tearing up a stage. The Shihad live experience is easily the most bankable known in the Australasian musical landscape. Hard and fast, but with enough melodic hooks and chorus-calls to drag even the most casual of punters along, little has changed in this regard over the years.

Strains of the late-night chugg of Deb’s Night Out highlights the pure wonder of 1995’s Killjoy album. It sets off a cascading run of rousing battle-cries few other bands are able to muster – Yr Head Is A Rock and Home Again taking up the charge for the break-through self-titled 96 album, whilst My Mind’s Sedate and Passenger separates The General Electric’s softer moments of Brightest Star and Pacifier.

Tension seems to fall out of Toogood’s limbs at this point, with a physical release plain to see as he admits the nerves of playing to his adopted home-town. He buffets the affirmation with a touching solo acoustic rendition of Pacifier’s Run which nicely highlights the much maligned album’s often overlooked quality. Stripping it back to bare basics shoots Toogood’s vocals to smithereens, but a cathartic sing-along all but justifies this gathering as the ‘Had love-in it’s intended.

And it’s this moment which perfectly encapsulates this evocative honesty – which other 20-year-old band known for its limb-rattling crunch can spike a gig’s high moment with an acoustic guitar, mood-lighting and a 200-strong boisterous chorus-line? It’s not rocket science. It’s rock n roll. And it’s bold.

Review by Ben Connolly

Artists: Shihad
Venue: The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Date: 6 September 2012

Click here for photos from the night!

Photo Credit: Annie Wilson – Amped Photography