Gig Review – An Evening With Machine Head – Brixton Academy 2nd November 2019

Text by Phil Ashdown.

Who wouldn’t want to see one of their favourite bands in concert playing for over three hours?

Well this is the format Machine Head have been touring with on their ‘Evening with…..’ shows on their last three world tours. This time around they expanded it to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their colossal, neck snapping debut album Burn My Eyes.

Following the departure of long-term band members, guitarist Phil Demmell and drummer Dave McLain in 2018, leader Robb Flynn started auditioning replacements for a touring band. To commemorate the anniversary he also got together with two former band members who recorded that very album, guitarist Logan Mader and original drummer Chris Kontos and began rehearsals.

The evening began at 7.45 when as Ozzy’s Diary Of A Madman came to a crashing end and the dark, brooding intro of the mighty Imperium started. In my opinion this is one of the best opening songs to any gig, with circle pits opening up and crowd surfers flailing over the barriers at the front. What followed was an unrelenting barrage of precision power as the band unleashed tracks from most of their albums including Take My Scars, Now We Die, Struck A Nerve and Locust. It was then that the opening strains of anther personal favourite began with the intro tape of the colossal I Am Hell, with its simple repetitive but powerful riff and Robb’s roaring vocals. As the song pauses Robb asks everyone on the floor to spread out and start the largest circle pit when the super-fast main riffs start the song off at an impressive super-fast tempo. Just stunning.

After a supreme rendition of Aesthetics Of Hate Robb takes centre stage beneath a single spot strumming an acoustic guitar and begins a rather long speech about music, depression and strength that quite frankly quickly begins to bore the crowd and really kills the momentum that has been so well established. From here the choice of songs is a little suspect and includes Catharsis and the awful Is There Anybody Out There?. Maybe Robb sensed a drop in excitement amongst the London crowd and immediately raises the roof with a superb cover of Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name that has an amazing effect on the crowd as they sing every word and all the guitar harmonies! Amazing. The last song of this part of the set is Halo which is the only song that new guitarist Waclaw Kieltyka seemed to struggle with, probably due to its complexities and the fact that ex-member Phil Demmell and Robb Flynn had such a long partnership and worked so well together.

After a short break and a change of backdrop Machine Head were soon back with the second line-up of the night to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the crushing Burn My Eyes album. The sound actually improved with original guitarist Logan Mader sounding superb and drummer Chris Kontos playing with real energy and a really loud ‘snap’ to his drum sound. The production level was also raised with some impressive fire columns, confetti cannons and lots of atmospheric smoke filling the stage. Opener Davidian was very impressive and was followed by the album tracks in sequence until part way through Death Church when the front of house sound went out suddenly. The band continued playing using their in ear monitors for a while as the audience tried to signal to them that there was no sound. It was caused by someone in the crowd throwing a large beer over the sound desk and took about 20 minutes to fix.

Following this the band returned for the remainder of the album and a covers medley that included Metallica’s Battery, Rage Against The Machine’s Bulls On Parade and Slayer’s Raining Blood before closer Block.

Another memorable evening with Machine Head that lasted over 3 hours and begs the question – why don’t other bands use this format? It’s back at London’s Alexandra Palace next year so don’t miss it!

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