For the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, System Of A Down put together the #WakeUpTheSouls World tour in order to raise awareness, and bring justice to the victims by recognising the mass murder that occured in Armenia between 1915 and 1923. The show started with the first of a 3-part animated documentary about the historical facts, displayed on giant screens.
The first part was an introduction to the current situation lived by the handful of Armenian survivors left today, including members of SOAD Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and John Dolmayan. Their people have been seeking justice for decades in vain, and are now urging the world to stand up with them and the people within Turkey, who fearlessly demand recognition and reparation for the Armenian genocide, which is illustrated in the animation with powerful drawings depicting the horror.
After a massive acclamation, the show starts with Holy Mountains and singer Serj Tankian on the synth. A few Lebanese flags start rising amongst the crowd in solidarity with members of the band whose families had to flee Armenia for Lebanon during the genocide. They pursue with Jet Pilot, getting louder to the point the lead singer puts on his ear defenders.
The following Suite-Pee is introduced by guitarist Daron Malakian shouting "Are you ready to rock n'roll? Are you ready to wake up the souls?" and "I can't hear you motherfuckers!!!" just before Prison Song which is the first track on which he joins in singing with Tankian. The atmosphere chills down after U-Fig, when bassist Shavo Odadjian starts strumming the first chords of Aerials, while Tankian who just grabbed his electric guitar, encourages the crowd to sing along and causes the most incredible chills a stadium could possibly give.
He then throws out his pick in the audience before leaving Malakian to sing Soldier Side - Intro, alone with his guitar and the mesmerizing crowd's echo. They agitate the crowd once again with a couple more songs before playing the well acclaimed Hypnotize, which Malakian says they play most of the times. The latter then pursues on the rather mellow Dreaming with bassist Odadjian and drummer Dolmayan, while singer Tankian is hidden at the back hitting the keyboard.
Deer Dance closes the first part of the gig before they display the second part of the Wake Up The Souls animation. The audience is now going back in time around WW2, and the mass murder of the jews, gypsies, gays, disabled, and all the ones not matching the “pure race". The short movie reminds us that Adolf Hitler was inspired by the Armenian genocide which he used to justify the fact that nobody would remember the horror anyway…
The conclusion demonstrates that even though the criminals were punished and the Holocaust given a name, it didn’t prevent some others to perpetrate the same atrocities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East up to this day; and that mass murderers such as Sudan leader Omar Al-Bashir still run free. The animation featuring violent representations of the Holocaust finishes by encouraging people to stand up and fight for justice.
The gig is reopened with P.L.U.C.K. followed by a cover of the patriotic Armenian song Sartarabad. The second part includes quite a few SOAD classics such as Lonely Day, Chop Suey! and Psycho, before which Daron Malakian plays the Rolling Stone’s Start Me Up intro on the guitar. It also includes the very beautiful Lost In Hollywood that the guitarist introduces by saying “You really gotta like System Of A Down to know that song”!
After Mr. Jack, the band leaves us with the last part of the Wake Up The Souls animation which, at last, explains the political aspects of genocides and the government lies, depicted in the form of a black and white blurred report. Again, it makes the point that the cease of mass murder is in the power of the citizens only, and that people need to stand together to put an end to crimes against humanity.
The last part will be the shortest, however not the calmest. The singer’s voice is still up for a well screamed War? after which he gets on with a speech to thank the fans who support their message and their band, and incites them to join in and change the planet so it can reflect the love, rather than the hate that drives wars and exterminations. Meanwhile, Malakian, Odadjian, and Dolmayan are jamming Arto, which comes to an end when the guitarists introduces Cigaro with the significant statement “My cock is much bigger than yours”!
For the penultimate song of the night, the band treats the fans to the infamous and very awaited Toxicity, during which Malakian sings “Keep on spinnin’ around, everybody spinnin’ around” - on the beat of the final lyrics "When I became the sun I shone, Life into the man's hearts” - creating this humongous and impressive spinning circle amongst the crowd!
That night and as always, SOAD gave all they had to their audience, musically and politically. They shared their personal convictions, and by doing so, they created a much intimate relationship with their fans than the usual performer/spectator. In their speeches and their love for humanity, they have proved that; what can sometimes be considered ‘violent' music, is not incompatible with a sensitive spirit and soul, quite the opposite actually.