I went to go see Machine Head live tonight at the 02 Apollo in Manchester, England on the 16/12/2014.
I’ve never been to the Apollo before, I had tickets to see Motorhead with Saxon here but it got cancelled when Lemmy was diagnosed with Diabetes. It was a nice big venue with a good atmosphere and excellent sound quality. I wouldn’t mind going back there again.
The support acts where Heart Of A Coward and Darkest Hour.
Heart Of A Coward were a Parkway Drive or Killswitch Engage sounding Melodic Metalcore band with a bodybuilder singer. Their drummer seemed to play really lightly and politely and never “rocked out” much at all. The music was ok, and would’ve been alright if you knew the songs, but it was a bit “stare with blank expression” from me I’m afraid.
Next up were Darkest Hour who’s first two songs made them sound like a groove-focused modern Metal band like Lamb Of God but then they ended up being more normal Metalcore. They were way better than the first band, and their drummer (also a bodybuilder) had a lot of force, power and style. He even had a kind’ve unique setup with no rack toms and only floor toms. Their singer came out in a legbrace like he’d broken his knee (said it was from partying with Machine Head). He told a joke: “I heard you Brits like dry humour, so this song goes out to the Queen’s vagina” …Darkest Frankie Boyle more like it! They were interesting enough, especially at the start, but my attention waned after a while… again it’s a case of if you knew the songs it would’ve been good.
Then the main event, Machine Head took to the stage. Man… I’ve been to enough concerts to know this wasn’t normal… I’ve never been in such a crush before. I felt like I was in a trash compactor… the crowd just absolutely squished the crap out’ve the front few rows (naturally, as is the case in 99% of concerts I ever go to, I end up front row centre, barr one. So, I’m the second person from front row centre, and also almost always there is a tiny girl or skinny 15 year old dude in front of me who would get squashed if I didn’t have the good sense to spend the entire concert, muscles engaged to maximum effort, trying to push the crowd back).
Well, this crowd was waaaaaay too selfish and eager and they absolutely squashed the crap out of us and I got it from both sides and backwards and I’m not joking, my muscles hurt more than doing two hours of really focused weightlifting, on a day when I’m adding more weights to the bars (so as to advance). It was crazy. I felt like I was in an animal enclosure and not a rock concert. Lamb Of God fans weren’t this crushing, Hatebreed fans weren’t this crushing. Bring Me The Horizon and their attitude-problem hardcore dancing selfish-jerk audience weren’t this crushing. I, and basically everyone towards the middle of the first four rows just got absolutely crushed and pounded. It was exhausting, and out of the ordinary. Joke – All the lyrics about smashing an crushing probably didn’t help either.
…So it was more like a workout than a gig, and you’d think that would spoil it… think spending so much mental energy just not being bulldozed and trampled would’ve distracted me from the music – but no! What a concert! Machine Head were absolutely amazing. It was such a brilliant performance, such good vibes, such energy. The power and belief and showmanship was absolutely top shelf. I can’t recommend this band live enough. Its one of the best concerts I’ve been to in recent years. In fact, one of the best gigs I’ve been to period. And I’m not exactly a gig dodger.
The setlist was awesome too. They’ve been doing a revolving setlist thing on this tour; some nights you get “Supercharger” or “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears” whereas some nights you get extra tracks off the new album, there’s different songs from The Blackening on different nights, sometimes “Block” is there from Burn My Eyes and sometimes not. On the Dimebag death anniversary there was a load of Pantera covers.
On this particular night, the night I went to see them, they played “Imperium,” “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bit The Bullet” off of ‘Ashes Of Empires, “Beautiful Mourning,” “Now I Lay Thee Down,” “Aesthetics Of Hate” and “Halo” off of The Blackening, “Locust” and “Darkness Within” off of Unto The Locust, “Killers & Kings,” “Now We Die,” “Game Over,” “Beneath The Silt” and “In Comes The Flood” off the new album Bloodstone & Diamonds, as well as rap-featuring “From This Day” off of The Burning Read, “Bulldozer” off of Supercharger, “Ten Ton Hammer” off of The More Things Change, and of course “Old” and “Davidian” off of Burn My Eyes. What a setlist!
I am so, so pleased to have gotten to see the two Locust era tracks with my own eyes. Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely adore Unto The Locust. I still have the keyring on my keys, the poster on my wall, and the album never comes off my limited-space phone no matter the new stuff I buy. I dig the crap out of that record and to get to see “Locust” and “Darkness Within” live was amazing. Rob did a little speech about the bay area thrash scene beforehand, which was interesting. Those were my favourite moments of the night, with “Bulldozer,” “Davidian” and surprise awesome new track “Game Over” as the next best. But really, it was all golden!
Rob was a very good frontman all evening; being very entertaining, encouraging participation, getting everyone’s energy up, shouting out all the band members including multiple shout-outs for new bassist Jared MacEachern (man, replacing the amazing Adam Duce cant’ve been easy, but this guy nailed every part and “felt right” in the same way Pat Brudders does for Down). The only thing I didn’t like was that he made fun of a kid in the front row for not going mental enough and sitting there still all night with a Dr. Evil from Austin Powers pinky-finger to mouth gesture the whole evening… and fair enough it probably looked funny, but the kid was likely being crushed half to death if I was anything to go by, and he was little and skinny so in that position I wouldn’t have gone that crazy either. Rob did save it though by singing “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” so it felt less like bullying and more like a good frontman entertaining the crowd. Oh and the rest of the band had all got Santa Hats on towards the end. Fitting for this time of year, it was nice and amusing. Merry Christmas.
It was good that all the material went over well. People lost their shit for the Supercharger and Burning Red stuff equally to the classic Burn/Change stuff. Everything from ‘Ashes onwards got an extra special reaction. Anything to do with Phil Demmel is just beloved by the fanbase (and rightly so – what a great musician!). I’ve been at some concerts where people only react to the new stuff (Mastodon, Riverside, BMTH) or only the old stuff (Hatebreed, Megadeth, Slayer) but everyone reacted well to everything here.
It was such a great performance, and the band’s high quality, well-designed lightshow really added to things. It went green during “Locust” and red during “From This Day” off of The Burning Red to echo those album’s artwork and it would black out the stage but spotlight one person to highlighted members during key parts like interesting drum fills or separate guitarists on riffs that switch between separate earphones on the record (aka panning). Their stage show had big backdrop banners, Roman Empire looking plinths with the MH logo, smoke cannons, all sorts of lights, banners with lions on them off to the side. It looked expensive and impressive. To top it all off the sound was superb… during that super dirty riff at the end of “Davidian” (y’know that really slow, brutally ugly riff) it was the best sounding moment I’ve heard live in the last two years (and Rob even called out “so fucking heavy!”).
Also… I can’t describe how cool it was to see Dave McClain. He’s just such a unique, bespoke Drummer and no one else plays like him. His style is so singular it sometimes sounds like he’s playing “wrong” because no one else plays like that. Watching some of those badass fills with my own eyes was like a religious experience.
Overall; great concert… but don’t be surprised if you read in the news that someone died from crush injuries.