4 System of a Down Live Videos You Need to Watch

Pummeling live moments from the metal masters.

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4 System of a Down Live Videos You Need to Watch

With SOAD due to play a series of European festival dates this summer, I thought it was high time to revisit some of the band’s past live glories for this week’s feature.

I’ve focused on performances from their early years for this article, ranging from their pre-label days to the release of "Steal This Album!" in 2003. That’s not to diminish any of the band’s live output from their latter days, (indeed, if you holler about it loud enough in the comments, there’s no reason not to do a follow up) but there’s something to be said for the witnessing the young, hungry SOAD tearing it up on stage. Enjoy and, as always, play fucking loud!

Whisky a Go-Go, Los Angeles, 1997

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This one from 1997 is perhaps the earliest example of live SOAD footage out there. Fortunately, it’s a corker; a professionally shot example of the band throwing down at Hollywood’s Whisky A Go-Go in the days before their first album.

The group is on fire in this video, with Serj staring down the audience like a maniacal demon and the rest of the band delivering the kind of high-wire, frenetic energy performance that would become their trademark in years to come.

Also of note is the setlist. A number of cuts are taken from their self-title debut album that would be released in 1998, while others are drawn from the band’s myriad early demo tapes.

The Whisky A Go-Go show was reportedly one of the gigs that brought the band to the attention of producer Rick Rubin. Watching the footage, it’s not hard to see why.

Mississippi Nights, St Louis, 1998

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The guys from Lepers TV managed to capture some amazing footage of up-and-coming metal acts in the late 1990s to early 2000s. This clip of System live at Mississippi Nights in 1998 is no exception.

A year down the line from the Whisky performance and with the band’s self-titled album now in stores, the turnout is certainly larger than that of the previous video. But, the setting is still super intimate, and the band’s intensity shines through in the confined setting.

It’s strange watching back to think that this was one of the last times the band would play in a venue so small. With the release of their next album, Toxicity, they’d be catapulted into heavy metal superstardom.

FujiRock, Japan, 2001

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Speaking of "Toxicity"...

This pro-shot footage of the band playing at the FujiRock Festival in Japan in 2001 is notable for featuring the live premieres of many standout songs from System’s monolithic sophomore effort. "Jet Pilot," "Needles," "Science" and the now anthemic "Chop Suey!" all got their first ever plays at the show, which took place a couple of weeks before the album’s release.

As for the performance itself, it’s evidence of the band’s growing prowess as live musicians. Unrelentingly fierce and suitably energetic, their energy is clearly transmitted to the crowd, who swarm in a frenzy of moshing and crowdsurfing.

Reading Festival, United Kingdom, 2003

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Full disclosure. The last entry on this list was in part influence by my being there... Still, it’s an absolute behemoth of a show so you’ll no doubt forgive me for the indulgence.

This rather tasty video mixes audience, pro-shot and FM sources to create a complete video of the band’s 2003 performance at the Reading Festival, supporting Metallica (Darron and Shavo would join the ‘Tallica boyz onstage for the "Die, Die" section of "Creeping Death").

At an hour and 20 minutes, it’s packed to the rafters with absolute bangers from the band’s first three albums, including the then recently released "Steal This Album!" Perhaps the best version of Mind ever played and a humungous sounding Mr. Jack are just two of the reasons to crank this one loud. Hindsight ain’t always 20/20, but this video proves that my memories of SOAD’s live ferocity back in the day were fully justified.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    How about the Low Lands performance of 'Psycho' where Daron's guitar fails then Serj has to stall for time and Daron asks the crowd to boo them?
    The Armenia gig of 2015 was also phenomenal. They really gave everything. Really long set too.
    You guys know what's funny and/or unexpected?? Daron is using a Single Coils only Stratocaster at the 1997 Whyskey A Go Go performance.  And he doesnt give a rats ass. 
    Dude sings like a rabid ape. So very annoying
    Dude listen, I just want to say on every single article on this website, I see you leave a negative comment bashing on the band or bands in the article. 1st of all, it's a metal band. Compared to a ton of bands, he sings really mellow. You have people in bands like cannibal corpse where the dude sounds like Cookie Monster, and strangely people such as I myself still like it. 2nd, if you don't like it(which seems to be everything ever posted on here) don't comment. And third, these guys are awesome. They have created debatably the first or second( lateralus by tool is up there) album of this century. Their style is really unique, and even some of their biggest fans have said that their singing isn't all that great. But dude, you seriously have to stop destroying every single band on this website. Im not saying your a bad person or anything like that but why all the negativity?
    Dude listen, why are you letting this person's comments bother you? Can you not find anything else to do? This guy has an opinion and if it's negative, move on, don't even waste your time. 
    Shut your assmouth. Did you just sign up here yesterday? Typical. Stopped reading after the first line.
    Glad they didn't pick any recent performances. Serj sounds weak now.