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Friday, 18 March 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Machine Head (Live Review By Paul)

Machine Fucking Head: Great Hall Cardiff

There are some gigs where it is a privilege to be able to say “I was there”. This was one of those nights.

I count myself as a veteran MFH fan having seen them many times over the years; my eldest has racked up a couple more shows than me and all of our party had seen the Californians before. This show ranked amongst the best I think I’ve ever seen. When Robb Flynn and co promoted their tour as ‘An evening with Machine Head’ it was difficult to see past the ego but boy did they prove the doubters wrong.

Although the start was later than expected which meant the room temperature in the venue was already high when Diary Of A Madman hit the PA, a full two-and-a-half-hour set of superbly chosen songs soon laid to rest any grumbles. In a previous review of Sabaton I suggested that Ghost Division was possibly the best opener a band could have. Well, you can fuck that in the eye because when the first strains of Imperium hit the air, the desire to be in the pit was almost uncontrollable. Luckily for me, age and injury has curbed that enthusiasm and I was content to bang my head (muthafucker) from my vantage point near the sound desk. Of course, there was no shortage of willing volunteers who did throw themselves into the fray, and that set the tone for the evening. The MFH crowd do love a circle pit, and with Flynn’s encouragement there was plenty of opportunity. Imperium set the tone for the evening; hard, fast and heavy as hell.

Whilst MFH is definitely Flynn’s machine (oops!), he has some very trusty lieutenants to support him. The incredible drumming of Dave McClain was elevated about the main stage, Phil Demmel’s stunning fretwork sliced away to Flynn’s right and everything was soundly cemented by the Burton-esque windmilling of Jared Maceachern on bass who has rightly banished the memory of Adam Duce (at least until Game Over was played!). The opening salvo gave no quarter; Beautiful Mourning was followed by Now We Die and a monumental Take My Scars which incited action in all quarters of the venue. Huge amounts of pit action along with some real hard-core head banging. A trip back to Unto The Locust with Locust (which is a tune) before possibly THE track of the evening: From This Day is nestled amongst Machine Head’s relatively unloved release, The Burning Red, but dear god was it well received, with huge audience participation on the chorus. Well done Cardiff; it was awesome.

Ten Ton Hammer followed immediately after, leaving battered bodies gasping for air but there was no let up with Flynn playing ringmaster, coercing extra effort from those brave enough to step into the pit whilst the rest of us were content to bang the fuck out of our necks. This Is The End was brutal but paled into insignificance compared to the epic Elegy which was followed by the crunching The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears. Damn, this was vintage Head. A rather uninspiring guitar solo from Demmel slowed the pace and a slight pause in the madness continued with Darkness Within which had superb crowd singing and an emotional performance from Flynn. He’s had his critics but Flynn is an imposing front man, encouraging the crowd and limiting his speeches throughout the evening. He rightly acknowledged that it has been six years since MFH had played in South Wales (Newport 2010) and whilst he vowed to not leave it that along again, one can only feel grateful that the mighty MFH deemed it appropriate to play in our fair city.

Drum solos? I love Rush but I find Neil Peart’s self-indulgence a little tiresome. Dave McClain is just incredible but solos just don’t float my boat. If I was feeling charitable I’d concede that it is an opportunity for the drummer to demonstrate their skills. It also gave the rest of the band a breather However, from small acorns grow mighty oaks and from McClain’s solo we were treated to the full frontal assault of Bulldozer and Killers And Kings before all hell broke loose with the strains of Davidian. Cue mass destruction and much screaming along as “Freedom reigned with the shot gun blast”. To be able to throw your most incredible tune before the set had ended was remarkable.

A six song multiple encore followed and by now MFH had proved their metal and were flying. A stunning Descend The Shades Of Night, complete with acoustic guitar was greeted like an old friend. A rare outing in the shape of Now I Lay Thee Down followed, before Aesthetics Of Hate and Game Over poured more fuel on the raging crowd. Things really heated up with the arrival of Blood For Blood from Burn My Eyes which segued into Halo to bring the evening to a close. Flynn and co were on fire and all around the response was incredibly favourable. This is a band who are technically brilliant musicians and who produced a flawless display. An Evening with Machine Head? More like a masterclass in how to deliver. It really was an honour to witness this one. Fucking A! 10/10

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