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An Evening with Machine Head: This is Not a Game

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Photo by Melinda Oswandel for Metal Insider
Photo by Melinda Oswandel for Metal Insider

Question:

How the fuck are Machine Head getting better this far into their career?

Source of Question:

This past Friday night, January 30, Vince, myself, and 1,023 other rabid fans crowded into Irving Plaza — a more intimate venue than the ones the band normally headlines — for the sold-out New York stop on Machine Head’s current “An Evening With…” tour. According to the Irving Plaza box office, the show was going to start at 9 p.m… and given that there’s no support act on this tour, by 8:45, the room was so crowded you could barely move.

The band didn’t actually take the stage ’til 9:30 p.m., but the wait was so worth it. For two-and-half hours, Machine Head totally blew the roof off, the doors open, and the windows out, blasting through selections spanning the entirety of their 20+ year career. And they must have access to Bruce Dickinson’s Lazarus Pit or something — three-fourths of the band’s members are approaching fifty, but it feels like they’re just now reaching the greatest heights of their powers. They’ve never sounded this ferocious before. The energy on that stage coulda powered China.

And the crowd, for their part, fed that energy right back to the band. Egged on by guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn, who truly earned his “The General” moniker, the fans happily did their best to put a massive hole in the center of the venue’s suddenly-very-fragile-seeming floor.

Speaking of Flynn: he graciously shared the spotlight, not only with bandmates Dave McClain (drums), recent addition Jared MacEachern (bass),and total maniac Phil Demmel (guitar), but also with A&R guru Monte Conner, who first signed Machine Head more than two decades ago. Flynn not only took time to acknowledge Conner in-between songs, but also added his name to the lyrics of several choruses — most notably “Davidian,” where he changed his usual command of “Headbang, motherfucker!” to “Headbang, Monte Conner!”

Still, Flynn was the star of the night, by sheer force of charisma. From a speech about how the band “needs” to be playing metal the way us fans “need” to hear it to extolling the virtues of potential injuries at shows (he recalled a time when he happily broke ribs moshing at a Slayer show), moments that could have seemed cheesy or cloying in someone else’s hands came across as being legitimately heartfelt here. Flynn also has humor to burn: in addition to the aforementioned use of “Monte Conner” during “Davidian,” he growled “SO… HEAVY!!!” during the song’s epic, elephants-marching finale. Dude sounded like Dr. Frankenstein during the famous “IT’S ALIVE!” scene — like he couldn’t believe what he himself had created.

An Evening with Machine Head could easily have turned into a nostalgia fest with the band settling into the role of legacy act. But as Vince noted, the fans not only knew every word to anthems like “Old,” “Imperium,” “Bite the Bullet,” and “Aesthetics of Hate,” but to Bloodstone & Diamonds tracks like “Now We Die,” “Beneath the Silt,” “Sail Into the Black,” and “Game Over.” And that album hasn’t even been out for three months. Clearly, I’m not the only one who has spent a lot of time listening to it since its release. Point being: nobody should be too shocked if this band kicks all our asses for another twenty years. And I sincerely hope they do.

Remaining dates on Machine Head’s “An Evening With…” tour are below. Miss it at your own peril.

2/3/2015 Montreal, QC – Corona Theater
2/4/2015 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theater
2/5/2015 Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
2/7/2015 Pittsburgh, PA – Mr Smalls
2/8/2015 Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom
2/9/2015 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom
2/10/2015 Chicago, IL – House of Blues
2/11/2015 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
2/12/2015 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/13/2015 Minneapolis/ St Paul, MN – Mill City Nights
2/14/2015 St Louis, MO – Fubar
2/15/2015 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room
2/17/2015 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
2/19/2015 Las Vegas, NV – Vinyl / Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
2/21/2015 San Francisco, CA – Regency Center Grand Ballroom
2/24/2015 Seattle, WA – Neumos
2/25/2015 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw
2/27/2015 Calgary, AB – Flames Central
2/28/2015 Edmonton, AB – Union Hall
3/1/2015 Saskatoon, SK – Obrian’s Event Centre
3/2/2015 Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre
3/4/2015 Minot, ND – The Original
3/6/2015 Missoula, MT – Stage 112
3/7/2015 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory

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