I went to see An Evening With Machine Head last night in Cardiff, Monday 14th May 2018. There were no support bands and wasn’t much waiting around, just about three hours of Machine-Fucking-Head (as they like to be called).
After playing some Slipknot, Metallica and Killswitch Engage songs over the PA, and coming on to ‘Diary Of A Madman’ by Ozzy, the band took the stage. It was all decked out in cool mats and banners with the band’s iconography on it, there were no visible amps as it was all covered in screens which were white and blood stained, the drum kit was even white. I think at other shows the band might’ve been dressed white as well but they were dressed normal tonight.
The audience reaction was really great. I’ve seen Machine Head twice before and in the UK they are utterly beloved, so you can imagine how good the energy in the room was.
The night held a mixture of old and new, fast and slow, heavy and quiet. They played a decent chunk of their controversial (but excellent) new album Catharsis, which I appreciated as although I thought it was good on first impressions, it has been my car album ever since and in work that is the soundtrack to driving and I’ve really come to love it over the months. They played 6 whole songs of it, which is a pretty good showing for a new album. The audience reacted really well to the new material and the sing-alongs to songs like ‘Kaleidoscope,’ ‘Catharsis’ and even the controversial ‘Triple Beam’ were all just as good as fan favourites like ‘Bulldozer,’ ‘Take My Scars’ or ‘The Blood The Sweat The Tears.’ There was one typical meathead guy just shouting ‘Davidian!’ all night, but he was a small minority, the new stuff went over really well. Take that internet trolls.
The audience lapped up stuff of the classic albums like Burn My Eyes and The Blackening, reacted very well to material off my favourite album Unto The Locust and went mental for even stuff off the controversial albums like The Burning Red and Supercharger (yes even the much bemoaned rapping in From This Day, their late ’90s single which is often complained about by the bullet belt crowd. Hey, I love it and I showed up in a patch jacket full of Forbidden, Exodus and Testament patches). The only point in the evening was when it dipped was for the new ballad ‘Behind A Mask’ (which I loved and happily sang along to) but which seemed to die on its ass. One mosh-pit enthusiast turned to me and yelled, ‘this is why we have support bands!’ – meaning he didn’t like it. But to be fair the crowd might have just been tired from banging around for two and a half hours and just having heard ‘Davidian’ 19 songs into the otherwise crushing and energetic set.
There were all the songs I can’t live without nowadays like ‘Locust’ ‘Game Over’ ‘Killers And Kings’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ and ‘Imperium’ (I think I’d cry if I saw Machine Head and they didn’t play all of those) as well as the old reliable tracks like ‘Old’ & ‘Ten Ton Hammer.’ They even threw in ‘None But My Own’ off the debut which they didn’t play either time I saw them before which was a nice change.
The way the lighting works, with green for Locust era songs, Orange for Burn My Eyes era songs and Red for Burning Red songs is really cool, and with occasional towers of smoke and a very enthusiastic band interacting constantly with each other and the crowd, it is a joy to watch. You catch little bits like Phil and Dave making faces at eachother or Phil tuning Robb’s tuning peg in the middle of a part for laughs and you can tell they’re having fun. Although not new anymore, the new-ish bassist Jared MacEachern has such a great stage presence and is a perfect fit for the band, just like how Phil was when he joined and now you can’t imagine the band without him.
As for the performances; pure flipping magic! Watching Dave McClain drum is like watching a science experiment on a voodoo ritual. The man comes up with some bonkers patterns and just the best fills, and its hard not to spend the majority of the concert air drumming. The guy is a beast.
The vocals from all three stringed players were great, and Rob really holds up live. He is a brilliant frontman, you get peaks of it on the old live at brixton DVD and the live CDs but in person its a whole other level, he is the perfect mixture of grateful and humble but also commanding and dominating. Its awesome.
Apart from one or two very minor technical issues, the music was amazing. (I think Phil either broke a guitar string or had faulty equipment once as he dissapeared off stage briefly once). The jaw dropping guitar solos are such fun and people were singing along to parts like you do for Megadeth. I was in such a good spot – second row from the front, just left of centre – so could see everyone perfectly and see every little detail of the fretboards and drum kit. The venue has the stage quite close and low to the crowd so you really get to see everything and it was visually the best concert I’ve seen for a band of this size. You could practically make out their nose hair it was that good a view.
Considering Machine Head don’t have that many short songs, and played long tracks like ‘Clenching The Fist Of Dissent’ and ‘Halo,’ having 26 songs live was incredible value for money. Considering how ridiculously good the band are live it was anyway, but the sheer quantity as well as the spectacular quality make this one of the finest live concerts I’ve ever seen… Sometimes I’ve seen bands I love and been underwhelmed by sound, setlist choice or performance (see Monster Magnet for all the that one time when I was in Uni, or Slipknot when they supported Metallica that one time back in Dublin where the soundguy fucked them over and they only had a very short set) but with Machine Head everything has been amazing. Like Saxon, I’ve never seen them anything less than amazing and been totally satisfied.
If you get the chance, see this band live!
Ps. Shout out to the Cardiff audience members in the That’s Not Metal merch, I love that show!