Serj Tankian, Fantomas @ The Palace (25/01/2009)

Pouring into the Palace on Sunday night, were a mixture of Mike Patton fans, Fantomas fans and Serj Tankian diehards.

The debate raged as to whether or not the tour was established correctly. Surely Fantomas should have switched positions with Serj Tankian? This general stream of thought was backed up by the sea of Patton-related project t-shirts swimming in the crowd and the overly excited fan who managed to whip up cheers from the crowd twice without anyone appearing on stage.

Despite the initial proposition of an hour long set, Fantomas appeared on stage late, all members bar guitarist Buzz Osbourne decked out in cricket whites, complete with white zinc marks across their faces. Osbourne, for his part, accesorised his conventional black garb with his shock of afro-grey hair and a tiny smudge of white zinc on the tip of his nose.

Without further ado, the theme to The Godfather immediately cast a spell over the crowd. The rather unconventional set up allowed each member of the band to keep on eye out for front man, vocalist and all round music genius Mike Patton’s conducting gestures. Having Dale Crover (of The Melvins) on the forefront of the stage adds to the intricacy of the performance, allowing punters the chance to bask in his undoubted talent on the drums.

Bassist Trevor Dunn quite happily shares the centre of the stage with King Buzz, but most, if not all eyes in the Palace are drawn to the commanding figure of Mike Patton, whose vocals vary between intense, deep growls; to innocent, crooning falsettos out to mental screaming that not only sees his face contorting to project the vocals, but his entire body convulsing as if itching to exorcise the possession within.

Punters were promised a full rendition of The Director’s Cut and that was exactly what we were treated to, punctuated by Patton giggling his way through a little jig about a girl he met, and a collective effort singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. No one really wanted Fantomas to leave the stage, but when they did, a quarter or so of the punters left the venue, exclamations of praise drifting throughout the venue.

Serj Tankian and his backing band The Flying C.... of Chaos, complete with top hats and for the leading man, a snazzy white tuxedo jacket took to stage following a minor debacle with an unresponsive microphone during the set up phase.

Drawing entirely from his solo debut effort Elect the Dead, proceedings kicked off with The Unthinking Majority, which had the slightly smaller crowd singing along. Tankian’s stylishly frayed top hat plays a significant part in his on stage antics, utilised in dance moves as well as the finishing pose to each song. Contrary to expectations, the politically charged Tankian kept the speeches to a minimum, with the introduction to Praise the Lord Pass the Ammunition the main thought-sharing moment. Drummer Troy Zeigler was a focal point during the track, of which he spent with a white towel over his head.

Halfway through the set, Tankian took a moment out to lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, dedicated to Mike Patton, whose birthday falls on the 27th before turning back on track with the rest of the set. Honking Antelope saw the talented Tankian give main keyboardist Erwin Khackikian a break on the side of stage, taking over the reins and letting his vocals soar over the crowd.

The set concluded with –  “Empty Walls’, giving the crowd one last chance to jump around and literally go mad. Tankian is quite obviously enjoying himself, often exchanging grins with guitarists Dan Monti and Jeff Mallow, and following a short break, returns for an encore with their interpretation of David Bowie’s –  “Space Oddity.’

There is no doubt that Tankian is a talented artist, his familiarity with many an instrument a sight to behold. His ability to convey feelings and nuances through his vocals is second to none, especially during Saving Us and Honking Antelope. The only problem is that Fantomas performed a set that practically left the crowd in a daze, and it was undoubtedly a hard act to follow, but Tankian definitely made a mark on the night in his own unique way.