System Of A Down blow Linkin Park away at Rock Werchter 2017

Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World also brought a day of rock to Belgium

“Puuuuuull the tapeworm out of your ass, HEY!” – it’s an unlikely sing-along, granted. Not the sort of thing that Freddie Mercury would have been able to get away with to unite the crowd at Wembley, but System Of A Down get it hollered back with a ferocious chorus of familiarity that you’d expect for ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Seven Nation Army’. But here at Rock Werchter 2017, they are the heroes that we’ve all been waiting for.

Throughout the weekend, there’s been a positive tension hanging thick in the air. Turns out that Belgians are constantly in waiting to start a circle pit for anything that sounds heavier than a xylophone – and today was their day. It all started as Jimmy Eat World fought through a wobbly start of wavey vocals and a couple of missed cues to paint a little sunshine over the Belgian rain with a bitesize serving of festival-ready feel-good pop-punk. The underrated moments from cult classic ‘Clarity’ land just as well as the alt-rock radio favourites of ‘Bleed American’ and ‘Sweetness, and while latter material like ‘Sure And Certain’ punches with that same masterful balance of heart and hooks, it’s clear that the crowd are far more comfortable living in the time capsule of their early ’00s memories.

That was never more apparent than when Blink 182 took to the stage, with a literally flaming ‘FUCK’ sign marking that we had all well and truly returned to adolescence. While the line-up and sound may not be quite what you remember from way back when, Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and the latest addition of Matt Skiba in the place of Tom DeLonge still bring enough smut and anthems to provide the dumb pogo-friendly escapism that the world needs. “Are you ready for System Of A Down?” asks Hoppus to a sea of deafening screams. “How about Linkin Park?” calls for a more subdued reaction. They may not be closing the evening, but SOAD are the headliners these people came to see.

With an unrelenting 28 songs, System Of A Down barely paused for breath as they ripped through an onslaught of speed-metal insanity. Once calm and distant pockets of the crowd erupt into circle pits for ‘Suite-Pee’ and ‘Prison Song’ before the dark humour of ‘Violent Pornography’ showcases their unique playful side. Naturally ‘Chop Suey’ and ‘Toxicity’ prove to be the centre-pieces of the set, but ‘Bounce’, ‘Sugar’ and ‘B.Y.O.B.’ take the band’s twisted adventure in sound to its most unhinged. Werchter gives the love back in spades, before frontman Serj Tankian declares them “the best audience of the whole tour”. It can be a hackneyed and too often repeated cliche, but we believe them – at least because it’s what the band deserved.

It should have been the main event, alas it was not to be. Closing the main stage, Linkin Park played a set tailored around their divisive and lacklustre new pop-leaning album ‘One More Light‘. Opting for much more of their radio-friendly material, the nu-metal classics included either seemed totally at odds with everything else or were translated into something far too sickly sweet. The rain may have stopped hours ago, but an acoustic version of ‘Crawling’ crooned into a weeping fan’s face suddenly makes everything seem so damn wet. It was a confusing set where they seemingly couldn’t figure out if they wanted to be Imagine Dragons, Justin Bieber or, y’know, Linkin Park.

In the battle for which headliner will be remembered this evening, one set was driven by madness and idiosyncrasy, the other left flat by labouring too much over a pop formula. Linkin Park fell at the final hurdle for trying and failing to please everyone, while System Of A Down ruled the day for doing what no one else can.

System Of A Down played:

Soldier Side – Intro
Suite-Pee
Prison Song
Violent Pornography
Aerials
Mind (intro only)
Mr. Jack
DDevil
Needles
Deer Dance
Radio/Video
Hypnotize
Dreaming
Pictures
Highway Song
Darts
Bounce
Suggestions
Psycho
Chop Suey!
Lost in Hollywood
Question!
Lonely Day
Kill Rock ‘n Roll
B.Y.O.B.
Cigaro
Toxicity
Sugar

Linkin Park's Chester Bennington

Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington

Linkin Park played:

Talking to Myself
Burn It Down
The Catalyst
Wastelands
One Step Closer
Castle of Glass
Good Goodbye
Lost in the Echo
New Divide
Invisible
Waiting for the End
Breaking the Habit
One More Light
Crawling (piano version)
Leave Out All the Rest
Somewhere I Belong
What I’ve Done
In the End
Numb
Heavy
Papercut
Bleed It Out
Faint

Rock Werchter 2017 concludes today with sets from Foo Fighters, Alt-J, Soulwax, Avalanches, Dropkick Murphys, The Kills, Warpaint and many more.