On the basis that one of our editors had to sell his ticket on due to ill health and couldn’t make this gig, I’m going to begin with the bad points. You know, just to make out that everything sucked and that he didn’t miss anything. Here we go:
They started at 8:15 instead of 8:00 so we were conned out of fifteen minutes of metal.
There was a lacklustre guitar solo.
There was a drum solo.
The sound wasn’t exactly great, with the usual “too much bass” issue with the Academy. The drum solo in particular emphasised this, as every time Dave McClain hit the kick drums you couldn’t hear any of the others. Similarly, any of Phil and Robb’s fretwork that focussed on the bottom string may as well have been a single note. Still, it wasn’t as bad as 2010 with Hatebreed where they may as well have played inside a huge washing machine filled with rusty nails for all you could make out.
So, right, James? Stop reading now.
Has he gone?
Bloody, blinking, flipping, f*cking hell they were good. Playing a 2 hour and 45 minute set, fans certainly got value for money with the entire back catalogue being torn asunder like a big, metal piñata spilling its circle-pit enthusing bowels over us all. There was blood, and sweat, and tears. There were shotgun blasts. There were bulldozing riffs and things came crashing around us like ten ton hammers.
You get the idea.
Opening with a double-header from The Blackening (“Clenching the Fists of Dissent” and “Beautiful Mourning”) certainly had the crowd pumped from the off, although I confess I don’t fall into what seems to be the majority who rate this as their favourite album. I’m more of a Locust man. I got my fill a few songs later with “This Is The End” and the title track, but prior to that we had a traipse through Bloodstone & Diamonds (“Now We Die”), The Burning Red (“From This Day”), Burn My Eyes (“A Nation On Fire”, being played for the first time live since 2010 apparently)… As I said, the entire back catalogue was rifled for tonight’s show.
If there’s a band that know how to do “epic”, it’s Machine Head and the set included the likes of “Halo”, “A Farewell To Arms”, “Clenching…” (funnily all from The Blackening). On the other hand, we had utter blasts of furious heavy thrash with “Aesthetics of Hate”, “Davidian” and “Block” (which Robb introduced as being called “Fuck It All”). Throughout them all, the pit just kept getting bigger and bigger while the front few rows ably tolerated the hordes of crowd surfers.
Robb Flynn is a superb frontman, giving his all as well as communicating well with the crowd. In fact, if there was one thing missing from this gig (other than a dozen other tracks they could have played), it was a little more audience interaction. Robb spent a lot of time talking to the audience last time the band were in town, and the natter was limited tonight. There were a couple of long gaps where this kind of thing could have happened, but they were probably spent with the band having massages and showers to compensate for all the effort they were putting in.
Certainly, it wasn’t a situation of heading offstage to get the crowd to shout them back on – as one guy behind me yelled, “Every track is an encore”. It’s hard to save your best for last when your best is pretty much every track on a 22-year history of albums.
The mammoth set clocked in at 22 songs (one per year, plus the two solos), and bear in mind that a couple of them were around the ten minute mark. There are points that can be raised both for and against support acts, but in terms of value for money for the punters, a non-stop set from the headliner is hard to beat.
Especially when that headliner happens to be a band as good as Machine Head, an act who have never been anything other than at the top of their game.
Photos by Iain Purdie