Machine Head are back in London and this time with a format rarely used in Heavy Metal. No support acts – just approximately 3 hours of music from the headliner and played to a crowd who are only there for one band. This show is only for Machine Head fans and Machine Head. It is purely for the Machine Head family. On top of that, there were also a handful of VIP ticket upgrades at each venue which allowed for a collection of fans to meet the band and get items signed. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect gig.
Resident GBHBL writers, The Disc and UnholyDarklotus, along with their better halves purchased the VIP package to meet and greet the band. The cost was in the region of £70, which is a lot of money though, speaking for myself, there isn’t a price I could put on meeting my heroes and if there was, it would have been more than £70. I think it is also very important to also see this money as good earnings for a band who don’t make millions. Anything I can do to support them and ensure they exist long into the future, I will do with absolute pleasure. Building up to the meet and greet I must admit to feeling very excitedly nervous while running through all sorts of insane scenarios which involved the band being rude and abrasive, having insanely squeaky voices, me being left start struck and speechless and even one that involved me drinking too much beforehand, throwing up and then hugging a pillar. I am glad to report none of these came to pass. Instead we found ourselves with a group of around 30 people, queuing outside the venue at around 17:30. There were already people lined up for general admittance and you could feel the envious looks coming from them. We were checked into the venue, given our excellent VIP lanyards and asked to wait for a few minutes while the band finished off sound checking. Not long after we were admitted into the venue which was amazing as I have never been into a venue that was completely empty before. The stage setup looked amazing as well.
There was one security guard working for the venue, not the band, who tried his best to ruin the experience for people by acting ridiculously and blocking people from using the toilet while waiting for the band. He literally would chase after them yelling at them to get back in line and a few of us were starting to get frustrated with him but luckily a chap with an American accent (possibly a representative of the band) came out and verbally reprimanded him in front of everyone which helped us all to relax again (and helped a few empty their bladders somewhere other than the floor). Shortly after this, the band came out to loud roars of approvals from us. An organised queue made their way up to see them one at a time where we got to shake hands, have a chat and get some items signed. Importantly, the band were lovely people. I was so nervous walking up to them but they were chatty, down to earth and appeared grateful to see us which was amazing. We spoke about tracks we would like to hear played, gigs we have been too and even had a chat about my daughter. Believe me when I tell you there is no better feeling then shaking hands with your heroes while talking about your daughter and realising that these guys are lovely people.
After the more formal queue and signing, they band left their table and milled about with us letting us take pictures with them and of them while chatting. All the fans were very nice and helped each other get pictures of the band as well. Like I said, these aren’t just fans of random bands. These are the Machine Head family. The routine big group picture was taken with the band and they left to prepare leaving me feeling elated and realising how worthwhile the experience had been. What an amazing night, and the music hadn’t even started yet!
As the rest of the crowd start joining us early starters and the venue crowd rose from the 30 people towards the 4,500 or so capacity, a whole new level of excitement and anticipation starts to build. The PA is playing some classic metal tracks but everyone is just waiting for Machine Head to take the stage. Resounding chants of Machine Fucking Head bounce from every corner and, not long after 8 o clock, the lights dim signaling the bands arrival and the roar of welcome from the crowd are deafening. The opening notes of Clenching the Fists of Dissent sound out and the crowd goes absolutely wild. The sound is near perfect and the light show is dazzling. The band look like they are having a blast and the crowd are feverous in their response. Clenching ends with its groove section that has a whole 4,500 person crowd head banging in unison before Robb Flynn announces the start of Beautiful Mourning. Being such a frantic and fast paced song anyway, the crowd are already moshing like crazy but as Robb requests circle pits, the place turns into absolute chaos. The circle pits are huge and aggressive but the whole floor is moving in unison and there are bodies and limbs visible in every direction as crowd surfers fly through the air. It isn’t all chaos though as when the song hits the softer sung bit, the crowd again respond appreciatively by screaming the words back at the band in unison.
The crowd are pumped and the band are pumped and then Now We Die starts. This track sounds phenomenal live and, like many Machine Head tracks, sounds much heavier live than it does on the album. Again the mosh pit descends into chaos and again the whole floor feels like it is pulsing. The soft section of this song is a thing of beauty. Robb sings it perfectly with assistance from Phil and Jared but they could have stayed quiet as the crowd are once again belting out every word. It feels powerful and feels emotional and I even heard a person behind me say “Oh My God, this is the best feeling of my life”. That is how good Machine Head are.
As if things haven’t been heavy enough already, Machine Head burst into Take My Scars next which is always a crowd favourite and it shows again here but one of the biggest cheers of the night so far actually comes for the next few tracks starting with Locust. As the lights change to a deep green and the intro starts, the crowd are amazingly loud in receiving it which surprised me a little. Though I love this track, I didn’t realise quite how popular it was with the fan base as a whole though as everyone rages throughout, it becomes very clear. The solo which has Phil and Robb facing off against each other is loud, clear and brilliant. As Locust ends we get thrown a real surprise though as From This Day is played next. As the whole crowd are Machine Head fans, there is no hatred for The Burning Red here and it goes down a treat. It does sound slightly different to the original release as Robb tends to shout the verses rather than rap them but it is great to hear it played and great to see Machine Head happily play from their whole catalogue. As with many of their tracks, it is much heavier live as well. At the end of From This Day, Robb tells us about his love of the venue and its rich heavy metal history though does also make us very aware that he isn’t cool with its new Eventim Apollo name and that it will always be the Hammersmith Odeon or Hammy O to him. He also christens us Ten Ton Hammersmith before jumping into that actual track, Ten Ton Hammer. Again the crowd are rapturous and Dave’s drums sound thunderous throughout. The screams of “and like broken glass you’ll shatter” are amazingly loud and both band and crowd lap up every second of it. As the track ends to the head banging section, again the whole floor seems to pulse as one.
As if that wasn’t heavy enough, Robb asks the crowd if they are ready for a fast one. Of course they are and next up we get This is the End which turns the crowd into a pulsating, raging beast. It is absolutely chaotic and brilliant. The band sound so tight, the light show is epic and the crowd are brilliant. The next track was a real surprise and is Desire to Fire which hasn’t been aired since 2002. It is great to hear something so rare and, while it doesn’t have the wow factor of some of their tracks, it is well received, sounds note perfect and keeps the crowd head banging throughout. It is followed immediately by crowd favourite, The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears. This is a great song live and the crowd all scream out the chorus lapping up every second. One of the great things about a show like this is the chance for a band to play some older tracks that don’t necessarily always find a space in their shorter headline gigs and we get yet another one next in Crashing Around You. For me, this song was a real highlight of the gig. It was fantastic live and I hope it gets played more often. Everyone enjoyed it, everyone was screaming and singing and the whole floor was head banging in unison. Fantastic stuff.
To give the band (and crowd) a little breather, Phil Demmel plays a little guitar solo on his own for a while after Crashing Around You though it is more just him messing around than a structured solo.
Robb rejoins the stage soon after with two guitars on which everybody knows signals the track Darkness Within. Before the song starts, Robb gives an impassioned speech about how music can pull you out of the darker times in your life which is well received. The song itself is played beautifully and the solos are majestic. The crowd feel emotionally involved in every note and beat. As the song ends, the appreciative crowd carry on the ending over and over while the band applaud us from the stage. Amazing.
Dave McClain treats us to a drum solo next which is pretty special. He is an amazing drummer and should be rated much more highly than he is. The solo is great and the thunderous drums have the whole floor shaking. When the whole band retake the stage, they announce their plans to speed things back up again and that starts with Bulldozer. Having seen this song live many times before, I can tell you that this song is brutal live. Another one from an album that wasn’t very well received but hear this live and you see how great this track is. The crowd, reenergized from their small break, are straight back to the chaos and Robb especially seems to be loving the energy. Bulldozer is followed immediately by Killers and Kings and the band request circle pits. They get them and they are brutal. This is a very heavy track, more so live than on the album, and it is hard to explain how insane the mosh pits are. After two tracks of such heaviness, many bands may look to slow it down again but not Machine Head. Instead they break into Davidian and all previous madness is eclipsed by the mosh pit to this song. The crowd belt out the famous chorus as always. No matter how many times this song gets played, it never loses any of its power.
The band return for what is their first encore though it actually doesn’t really feel like they ended the set yet so it is was more just a continuation. What a treat we get too. It starts with A Farewell to Arms which I had never heard live before and wow, it is brilliant. Slow and heavy followed by fast and heavy while packed with solos. It sounds great, it is played great and it is great. Now I Lay Thee Down is played straight after for the first time in years and is another treat, especially the solo where we get Phil and Robb facing off against each other again. The third song of this encore though is a firm favourite of every Machine Head fan and is Imperium. Arguably their heaviest song and to some, their best ever song, this is heavy metal at its finest. Jared’s bass gets the song going and before it even kicks in, the crowd has descended into anarchy. The pit is insane, the head banging is everywhere, there are beers flying through the air and the band are on fire. Absolute brilliance.
The next encore starts though again this just feels like the same set with another firm favourite, Aesthetics of Hate. Its deeper meaning towards Dimebag Darrell is well known and respected and the song keeps the pit churning over intensely. That is followed immediately by Game Over which is another very popular song and another one that sounds much heavier live than on the album. The pit stays insane throughout and the crowd bellow “Game Over” back at the band. As Game Over ends, once again Machine Head refuse to take their foot off the gas and instead ramp it up further to squeeze every last ounce of chaotic energy out of the crowd by bursting into Blood for Blood. It is a ferociously fast and heavy song and the crowd becomes even more incensed and involved while it is played.
That leads into the actual encore and final song of this amazing gig and what else could it possibly be other than Halo. From the clapping at the beginning to the singing of the chorus, the crowd are fantastic in living every second of it. The solo is beautiful and heavy and technical and the soft sung bit is sang from every corner of the room but then, as it starts to build again, with a shout of “Halo” smoke explodes all over the stage with bright white lights shining through and confetti explodes out of cannons in front of the stage. It is hard to put in words how epic it felt at that moment so here is a picture.
It doesn’t do it justice really, it was perfect. As the song ends, the crowd applaud and cheer gratefully and the band stay behind for a long while throwing out picks, drum sticks and applauding the crowd in appreciation.
Everybody leaving the venue not long after looked like they had been at one of the best gigs of their life. Machine Head pulled off one of the most spectacular, inclusive and intelligent shows I have ever seen. The venue was amazing. The sound was note perfect. The lights were spectacular and a huge amount of credit should go to the crowd who were crazy and involved at every step. Playing for nearly 3 hours only works with a special band and one who have a special catalogue of tracks and there are a few out there but Machine Head are one of the very top of the list. I have seen comments on this show stating that Machine Head are the best live band in heavy metal. To be fair, it is hard to argue with that. Thank you Machine Head for one of the best nights of my life.
I met the band, they were awesome, they played for almost three hours, they played a diverse set list of old and new songs with a few surprises thrown in, the venue was great, the lights were great, the sound was perfect, the band were appreciative and the crowd were fantastic. The only way this gig could have been improved is if they had played for another hour or two. To all you festival runners looking for a new headliner to replace the same old bands used every year, you are missing out on one of the best, if not the current best, in the business. These guys are amazing.
Machine Fucking Head!
An Evening with Machine Head @ The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith (11/03/16)