23 May 2019

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Jon Toogood - Gig Review: Jon Toogood @ Leigh Sawmill, Leigh - 28/04/17

02 May 2017 // A review by Sarah Sampson

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this show, but as an old school Shihad fan from the Killjoy album, I was keen to attend and get a different perspective of Jon and his musical background. My normal gigs I go to have a lot of distortion, giant drum kits that take up half the stage and almost ear piercing levels (certainly enough to make your ear’s ring for two days after if you’re not wearing ear plugs!) so I was expecting a very laid back, relaxed show with a lot of grey heads (well more than what I’d see at a normal gig I would attend!) 

When Jon started singing his first song, one of the newer tracks off FVEYThink You’re So Free, I first thought to myself ‘this is going to be a long night’ as I found myself consciously missing the bass and drums and POWER that Shihad is famous for. Looking around the room at this point (it’s 99% seated with only a handful of people standing) I saw a lot of head banging going on, so decided to wait and see what happened before I made anymore notes. My frame of mind changed very quickly after these initial doubts as I became absorbed and entranced by Jon’s voice and energy. Yes even though he was sitting on a high stool in front of a mic, playing an acoustic guitar, in the middle of the stage it seemed that at any moment Jon was going to leap off his stool and start head banging and screaming. I quickly realised that I was going to witness something truly magical that I think many Shihad fans (or ANY music fans for that matter, would love to witness with one of their idols in this style).

Jon’s set list was the perfect blend of Shihad songs and covers and I often found myself thinking that I preferred his acoustic version of the songs than the stadium anthem versions, which some of them had become. Two songs brought me to tears after he had explained the meanings behind the songs. Both of these two songs had already been favourite Shihad songs to me, but hearing what inspired them and then listening to the acoustic versions took me on a journey that only served to amplify my initial feelings I already had from the songs. Pacifier was written for a close friend of Jon’s who was suffering from a Mental Illness at the time and Jon wanted to help him get through it. Pacifier always spoke to me of ‘holding on, it’s going to be ok’ and hearing this song performed acoustically with only Jon’s powerful voice accompanied by the guitar was awe inspiring. The same can be said for The Great Divide which Jon revealed he originally wrote as a 2.5 min lullaby about observing the lines at the Auckland City Mission, night after night when they had come back to NZ to record FVEY and his observations of a NZ changed, and not necessarily for the better. 

The few covers that Jon did all either inspired his own songwriting processes or were songs he thought fitted well into the current state of affairs in the world. Aside from the two covers dedicated to David Bowie and Lemmy (who passed away last year), my favourite cover was Bob Dylan’s Master of War and I actually preferred Jon’s version of this great song to the original. I had to laugh at Jon’s explanation of the song To The Bogans "imagine this is another version of War Pigs then you will be all good", were Jon’s sentiments. 

In between each song Jon linked each song with a short story or memory of how each Shihad song was inspired or humorous antidotes from on tour, how nicknames came about and all of his interactions with the crowd were hilarious– heckling us, calling us out on being bogans, calling us old or mature bogans, encouraging us to sing "REALLY OBNOCIOUSLY for this song" and encouraging us saying that was the best drunk singing I’ve heard (Bliss, by Th' Dudes). There was a lot of times during the night when I had to wipe tears of laughter from my eyes, especially with Jon’s story on when he had to interview Lemmy for a Children's show when Shihad supported Motorhead. I don’t remember the last time I was this entertained by a musician. I stated at the start of my review that the shows I normally attend are of bands, but reflecting on Jon’s show now, you never, ever get this intimate a performance with a whole band set up. Jon’s tour is now over, but I highly recommend you get out to his next one! There has to be more and next time I’m going as a punter. Jon’s acoustic shows are something that any Kiwi bogan has to witness, even to just get more of an appreciation for Shihad’s music… after all they did influence a whole new generation of Bogans, and still are!


About Jon Toogood

NZ music legend, and guitarist and vocalist for Shihad and The Adults.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Jon Toogood


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