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Live Review: Machine Head

23 July 2018 | 2:42 pm | Brendan Crabb

"Unlike some international metal bands who act like they're doing us a favour by travelling halfway around the world to play here, the quartet were evidently enthused to have returned."

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Machine Head's decision several years back to exclusively play "evening with" performances (no support acts or festival appearances) has perhaps had the by-product of reducing potential cross-pollination with other fanbases and pockets of the heavy music world.

However, as this evening reinforced, it has ensured that their shows not only feel like a bona fide event, but are also filled with the Bay Area veterans' most rabid 'Head Cases'. These were devotees who snapped up multiple shirts, sang along with gusto, regularly engaged in "Machine fuckin' Head" chants and obeyed likeable front-man Robb Flynn's command on the numerous occasions he sought a circle-pit.

A three-hour affair meant this wasn't a gig for the casual observer, if such a demographic even exists for a band of this vintage. Kicking off with sure-fire party-starter Imperium — still the strongest opener in their now extensive catalogue — set the tone for an evening that touched on the key bases of the metallers' career, with a few unexpected twists littered throughout.

Each record was referenced to varying degrees; and even cuts like standalone single Is There Anybody Out There?, or a cover of Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name (with a snippet of The Trooper infused too) received a run, to the delight of the gathering. Outside the confines of this environment, efforts like the title track or Triple Beam from latest LP Catharsis were much-maligned. However, on this night they were greeted by punters like a life-long friend they merely hadn't conversed with for a while. Ditto the late '90s rap/metal of From This Day. Sure it hasn't necessarily aged well, and revisionist history results in it being recalled far more fondly than perhaps many would have anticipated, but it proved to be another hit on this occasion.

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Unlike some international metal bands which act like they're doing us a favour by travelling halfway around the world to play here, the quartet were evidently enthused to have returned. Although clearly musically well-honed and having the extended set caper down-pat by now, it's a credit to them that it didn't feel like a going through the motions. Flynn frequently sported a sizeable grin and boasted enhanced chemistry with bassist/vocalist Jared MacEachern, while axeman Phil Demmel made even the more complicated of leads look easy.

As the visceral groove-thrash of Old segued into closer Halo, Machine Head were hurtling towards the proverbial finishing line, no doubt aware they'd secured another triumph.