Let me paint you a picture: it’s finally warm in and around Glasgow. I was out for around eight hours today, hiking with a group of school pupils to ensure that they didn’t, you know, die or anything. As a result, I forgot to drink, caught the sun and then had to rush back to the city to catch Machine Head at the Academy – one of the handful of bands I would never miss when they tour.
Due to the rush, dinner consisted of one Fruit Gum and a handful of strawberries, plus a can of alcohol-free cider. So, not a lot. The venue was rammed, but I made it to the front after picking up a t-shirt and decided that with this being an epic 3-hour set I would take a breather when they played a song I didn’t like.
So. Three hours later (having not taken a break as the entire gig was classic tracks) and I’m dripping in sweat, both shirts are soaked through, as are my trousers. I’m battered, I’m bruised, staggeringly I’m not bleeding but my ears are ringing. I’m also starving but I don’t care. The Evening With Machine Head show was, in a word, epic. We’ll leave the “they should support small bands by bringing a support” argument for another post. Let’s just focus on Three. Solid. Hours. Of Machine Fucking Head.
The setlist is up to the side there, so check it out, and I’m not going to complain about “why didn’t they play…” because, frankly, if they’d gone on for ten more minutes I’d not be capable of writing this. There was some between-song banter, though not much, and a couple of short solos. Otherwise it was full-on crushing heavy metal and the wildest pits I’ve seen in an age.
New album Catharsis got a good outing, and the tracks from it on the whole got a very loud, violent reception. The exception was, surprisingly given that we’re not in the US, “Bastards”. For this I noticed that a goodly number of the previously active pit members, pogo-ers and singers opted to stand to one side and let the rest of us enjoy it. I’d assume it wasn’t the lyrical content but the musical style, and that’s their choice but personally it was one of the highlights, despite the usual muffled Academy sound killing off a lot of the lyrics.
The older stuff didn’t have any such problems, and pit after pit after pit erupted. Crowdsurfers were handled ably (and with a smile!) by the super folk from ShowSec – take a bow, people, you earned it! Flynn was, as ever, impressed by the local nutters: “I’m holding an acoustic guitar, and you’re opening up a fucking circle pit?!” There was even one during Dave McClain’s brief drum solo.
Lyrics were screamed at volume (“Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!” almost brought the ceiling down), fists were pumped, heads were banged hard and much good, friendly, violent fun was had by all. Could I pick out favourites other than the aforementioned “Bastards”? Tricky, but right now I’m remembering “Bulldozer”, “Ten Ton Hammer” and “From This Day”. And “Game Over”. And, of course, “Darkness Within”. And… fuck it. It was all just bloody brilliant.
Machine Head have taken a reputational battering recently, with the release of Catharis, but I’m going to nail my colours to the mast right now and state that in my opinion Machine Head are hands down one of the best heavy metal acts out there at this moment in time. Their back catalogue is superb. Their decisions to go with their own musical path and not play to the trends is appreciated. And their live show… bloody hell, that live show. It’s going to take the 4-band behemoth of Slayer, Lamb of God, Anthrax and Obituary to even come close to the deliriously enjoyable carnage of this evening.
There’s only one date left on this tour and if you missed out then you should be kicking yourself. Keep your eyes open and repent by being first in the queue when Machine Fucking Head come back to town.
Photos by Watchmaker Studios