On Monday night, singer-guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan of System of a Down gave fans another vivid glimpse of their new band, Scars on Broadway, at a special show at Los Angeles Union Station, a 1930s-era landmark in the band’s hometown. On the eve of today’s release of their self-titled Interscope debut, Scars on Broadway performed a 40-minute set in the monumental north wing of the train station, as fans moshed on a dancefloor of polished marble and clay.
It was only the band’s ninth show ever, following a brief promotional tour of Europe and sets at Coachella, KROQ’s Weenie Roast, a benefit in L.A. with Metallica, and its unannounced April debut at the Whisky a-Go-Go. In the band’s trailer before the show, drummer John Dolmayan said, “We’ve got something special. We’ve got a good live vibe. The energy is crazy. We’re playing with three guys that are very hungry, and we’re very hungry.”
The show-closing rocker “They Say” was well-known to the crowd after months of local radio airplay, but the set also introduced several contemplative, angry hard rock songs from the new album. The crowd clapped along to the anxious beat of “Chemicals,” and Malakian opened his arms wide during “Universe,” looking up and singing, “Mother, are we flying through the universe? Are we dying in the universe?”
After a driving, dreamy “Enemy,” Malakian’s floppy hat and mirrored shades flew off during the headbanging instrumental “Scars on Broadway,” which is not on the new album and can only be heard live (and maybe on YouTube) as the band riffs through some thundering, Sabbath-like gloom. Malakian’s eyes widened as he wailed the high-tension “Whoring Streets,” and one fan held up an Armenian flag of red, blue and orange.
He then began an impromptu take on “China Girl” (the David Bowie/Iggy Pop standard), singing and playing alone on guitar and adjusting the lyrics: “I’ll give you a man who wants to fuck the world!” He was soon joined by guitarist Franky Perez doing his best Stevie Ray Vaughan licks and keyboardist Danny Shamoun adding playful organ riffs.
Along with bassist Dominic Cifarelli, Scars already sound like a tight hard-rock unit, not unlike what Malakian and Dolmayan enjoyed with the other members of System, now on indefinite hiatus. “One thing they have in common with Serj [Tankian] and Shavo [Odadjian] is that they’re good people, they’re family people. We feel a family vibe from them,” said Malakian backstage. “I felt momentum from the first show — right away great energy at the Whisky. And it’s been consistent ever since.”