Northcote Social Club
Retrospective shows are risky business. At best the artists have the opportunity to reveal the class of early work, the timelessness of their art, to gift the audience a glimpse of a bygone era, and to offer up a small taste of the zeitgeists of formative years. At worst these events can lay bare the shortcomings of the artists’ early work, the un-classicness if you will. At worst they remind the audience of times they’d gladly left behind, of their own past poor judgement, and expose the depths of personal cringe we hide in our dark places. Shihad performing their 1995 album Killjoy fell somewhere in the middle range of this spectrum.
Being at university in Wellington in 1995, I lived in awe of these four lads who had seemingly ripped the lid off the heavy rock business and rocketed to the top of the music world—at least that was how we saw it. Killjoy was a watershed release for the band and it was no surprise that many of the songs stacked up in a contemporary setting. The opening bars of You Again gripped and chafed like sandpaper and the three-punch combo of the aforementioned, Gimme Gimme and The Call proved as immediate as the days they were written. From here the performance waned. Front-man Jon Toogood’s onstage antics were distracting at best and at times he was flat-out irritating. The flagrant posturing and heartfelt earnestness of the bloke made you want to puke at points and the use of backing track during slow-burner Deb’s Night Out was a particular low.
Thankfully the back end of the set revealed the best writing of the album and For What You Burn as an unexpected favourite. Guitarist Phil Knight was always the unnoticed exponent that started this thing rolling and his work this night further solidified this. We were spared the inclusion of any newer material in the encore, which concluded with the frenetic Screwtop from the band’s 1993 debut Churn. All up it was a pretty decent show but hardly enough to redeem Shihad from more recent indiscretions.