Alone, seated, and acoustic are not words typically bandied about in reference to Jon Toogood, the voice of legendary NZ hard rockers Shihad. Indeed, the nimble Wellingtonian is known as much for his onstage athletics as he is for big riffs and vocal intensity, particularly during a number of classic Big Day Out appearances that have become the stuff of trans-Tasman rock & roll folklore. Last night, the talk among the lucky crowd at the Stag & Hunter (Toogood’s only NSW performance on the Planet of Sound solo tour) seemed to reveal that everybody’s fondest memories of Shihad were when the band was blasting their big ballsy sound around the Sydney showgrounds and leaving punters pooped long before the likes of Nine Inch Nails or the Chili Peppers had even put their pants on for the day.
So it was with much interest and anticipation that we watched the very eye of those stadium-busting storms step onto a stage in Mayfield, flash his horns (the first time in a thousand to come), take a stool and strap on a six-sting. Immediately, the affable Toogood set the atmosphere of his crowd interactions for the evening with a crack of his whip-like wit and humour, before jumping headfirst into a banquet of covers close to his heart and what songs of his own that could survive an acoustic transition. Toogood tipped his proverbial hat to Wilco, the Verve, Henry Rollins, Aussie Crawl, fellow Kiwis Voom along with an offering from pre-Slice of Heaven Dave Dobbins and the Dudes. We got the truth about Powderfinger’s monster hit On My Mind when Toogood suggested that the riff of 2003 was lifted directly from Bowie’s Suffragette City, a point he was all too prepared to prove by belting out the latter. Whilst lamenting the loss of Motorhead’s “Philthy Animal” Taylor, and standing up to readjust his mic stand to a position best described as “Lemmy”, Toogood gave the mob ample warning that he was going for it. He was going to have a crack at The Ace of Spades, and you could almost hear the hairs begin to stand. Closing out the show with Long Way to the Top, Toogood could no longer ignore his comfort in conquering heights, kicking his side table clear of debris and scaling it to strut like Angus for all to see.
Whilst the covers were treat right at home in the pub setting, it was Toogood’s own works that saw the broadest bobbing across the Stag’s floor, always accompanied by a touch of insight or a smack of self-deprecating humour (a recurring admission of moving back in with Mum, for one). Joining the choir was mandatory, as Toogood insisted upon roaring singalongs, but never once falling short of entirely engaging. Due to their very DNA, a handful of Shihad hits were omitted, but all was forgiven upon the soar of such gems as Pacifier and The Brightest Star, reminding all present why Toogood and Shihad were and still are a big deal.
Jon was supported Matt Johnston with accompaniment from Christopher Dale.
This gallery was shot by Craig Wilson from Swamp House Photography.
This review was written by Josh Hewitt. Josh is the host of Stagwiz every Tuesday at The Stag & Hunter.