From the Vault: A Not-So-LIVE REVIEW

The entire SIDESHOW Podcast pre-ordered our tickets months ago to see Machine fuckin’ Head along with Suicide Silence and Darkest Hour over two nights–first at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on 2/3 and again the very next night at The Palladium in Worcester. Sure, we’re almost three weeks removed from the concert but our recording schedule prevented us from talking about these epic displays of extreme on the air. However, we would never want to deprive the legions of faithful Freaks of our magnanimous guidance. That’s why we went old school to bring you this EXCLUSIVE live review.

See, back during the Dark Ages between the end of college and the beginning of this here podcast, the three of us would send verbose and endless emails to each other discussing all the stuff we now force you to listen to. Since we can’t bring you our thoughts about the Unto the Locust Tour over the airwaves, we thought it might be fun to do a little roundtable, just like the old days. Let us know what you think in the comments and whether we should do more of these in the future. Keep in mind, Brian and Nick hate to write soooooo…

LIVE REVIEW

Machine Head/Suicide Silence/Darkest Hour – Best Buy Theater (New York City) 02/03/12; The Palladium (Worcester, MA) 02/04/12

Kyle the ROCK(jock): Might as well start at the beginning–DARKEST HOUR. I know there’s no love from Nick for them but being one of the first metal bands I saw live, I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Even more so now that we got a retweet! Which I found surprising since I gave them a bit of backhanded compliment about their performance. I’ve always thought they play better live than recorded and this was no different. I was entirely unimpressed with The Human Romance when it came out last year but I found the new stuff sounded much better in person. Good enough that I’ll probably revisit the record sometime soon. However, and this is why I was surprised they gave us a little free promotion, I did think they suffered somewhat without Kris Norris. In fact, I blamed his absence for my initial disappointment with Human Romance.

All photos courtesy of Kyle’s shitty iPhone camera

Brian: Well, I missed all but a song-and-a-half from DH because I had my sister’s ticket and was waiting for her to show up.  But that song-and-a-half wasn’t bad….I just didn’t have enough time to get into the show.

Nick: As you stated, I’ve never been a huge fan of Darkest Hour.  Nothing really against them – we just never clicked.  I will agree that the new material they played was much more convincing live, but to me John Henry is still a very lackluster frontman.  His constant demanding of circle pits (which I loathe anyway) was about as much interaction as he had with the audience and his vocals are so monotone I just can’t get behind it.  …..He’s like the Peter Steele of metalcore.

All in all I’m glad I caught their performance, and I would never make a point of avoiding their show – but them being on a bill would never be a selling point for me either.

R(j): FUCKIN’ CIRCLE PIT!!!!!!!! I Tweeted about this sometime back (I think I was making from of Stray From the Path) but demanding your audience starts a circle pit before each song not only makes you sound stupid, it makes your band LOOK stupid when the crowd inevitably ignores you. In the immortal words of Mike Ditka…STOP IT (I’m riding high this week!).

Suicide Silence hit the stage next. I hit the bathroom.

B: Yeah, Kyle you definitely made that comment before. It goes for just about anything; if it doesn’t work the first one or two times, it certainly isn’t going to work after that.

Yeah…definitely hung out by the merch table, grabbed a drink, talked to some dude in his 40s about the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise (he was wearing the shirt, he overheard us talking about it, we chatted).  And then, about 40 minutess later, people started coming out, so we went back in.

N: Suicide Silence was actually worse than I remember them being the first time I saw them (Toads Place, 2007 – I think).  Maybe it was because the production was better and I could hear them more intelligibly that I noticed how much more I don’t like them.  Here is the song structure

•  Fast paced death metal riff and blast beat with some screechy growl for 30 seconds
•  Sub drop
•  Half time for four more minutes
•  Repeat

Every song starts off with promise.  Say what you will about them, but the faster stuff is actually quite complicated and well done, unfortunately they feel the need to ruin that by playing whole songs.  It’s like they get tired after thirty seconds, throw in the towel, and chug it out a-la early 2000’s “shitty hardcore band #1” style for the rest of the song.

Also, one more gripe – someone needs to tell the singer that the dick shaped thing in his hand is actually called a “microphone” and in order to project your voice over the awful noise behind you, you must yell INTO it, not just hold it in your hand!  He spent half the set holding his arms out like a crucified praying mantis expecting people to sing along.  Guess what? You’re at a Machine Head show – we don’t know you or your stupid lyrics.

Lastly – if you haven’t had the (dis)pleasure yet – pay attention for the background vocals during the first song and then look for a second mic on stage.  Yeaaaaaaah….good job guys!

However, they did cause one of the best Wall Of Death’s I’ve seen lately. (Forgive the terrible audio but hey–it’s Suicide Silence. What else would you expect?)

Suicide Silence – Wall of Death from nick jones on Vimeo.

R(j): I wish “Wall of Death” actually lived up to its name in this case…

On to the main event. The reason we all bought our tickets on pre-sale and attended over two nights.

MACHINE FUCKIN’ HEAD.

I’m ashamed to say this was my first time seeing them headline, although it’s been YEARS since they’ve done a proper tour. God only knows why. In addition to creating the best album of the new Millennium AND the best record of 2011, they may be one of the best live bands on the planet. Some how, some way, the made the intro to “I Am Hell” even heavier than it sounded on Unto the Locust. I thought the walls of the Best Buy Theater were going to cave in.

HORNS! FIRE! METALZ!

B: This is my 3rd time seeing them as a headliner, last time being when they co-headlined with Arch Enemy back in 2007 on “The Black Tyranny Tour.”  They were killer then, and they are just as, if not more, killer now.  Not only is everything crushingly heavy, but it is all done with such conviction and emotion.  Yes, much of that has to do with the songs they write, but the band knows how to make it all come alive on stage.  And this goes for all the songs, whether it be on songs from their nu-metal days of The Burning Red, classics from Burn My Eyes, or their latest and greatest material.  Speaking of that, they played at least one song from EVERY album!  What an incredible set. 

This is all spearheaded by Mr. Robert Flynn who is one of the best front-men out there right now, especially considering he is tethered to a microphone.  He brings such power and sincerity to his delivery, you cannot help but sing a-long. As we touched on with Darkest Hour, stage banter and calling the crowd to action is an art form, and Flynn is like a goddamn Picasso.  I think he only called for 2-3 circle pits, and they all actually happened (one of which I went into, when “Imperium” kicked in), and he called for head-banging no less than eight times. He is one of the the only people that calls for that anymore!  And is a shame too, since, ya know, these are metal shows and that is what metal-heads are supposed to do.  Anyway…he also told a funny Dimebag story before “Iconoclast” and gave a little motivational-type speech before “Darkness Within,” along with the typical thanks to the fans.  None of this was ever out of place, overstayed, or scripted.  He just is fantastic, and is a front man that other should aspire to be.

N: This was my 3rd Machine Head show – second as headliner.  These guys never disappoint.  They played for just shy of two hours and played a diverse set with selections spanning their entire career.  I figured after not working “Now I Lay Thee Down” into the set that it would surely be one of the two encore acts.  I was elated to have them walk back on the stage and rip into “Halo” instead!  It was the only song that they hadn’t played so far that I was really hoping to hear, and when it didn’t make the regular list, I figured we wouldn’t get to hear it.  ….they always keep you on your toes!

I opted not to be down in the pit for this show (because I’m an angry old man that things windmills belong in meadows!) but instead to stand behind the soundboard to get the best sound in the house and to be able to actually enjoy watching the show.  Seeing these guys all shred – including Mr. McClain on the drums – is always awe inspiring.  Also, a bonus treat, pay attention to the lighting and video dudes if the show hasn’t come to your area yet.  The were rocking out so fuckin’ hard you’d think they were solely responsible for awesomeness that was occurring.  That said – the light show was spectacular and well placed.

It may only be early February – but their performance has set the bar pretty damn high for “Best Live Act of 2012.”

R(j): Despite a tour slate that includes Every Time I Die, the reunited Killswitch Engage, and (inevitably) Dillinger Escape Plan…I couldn’t agree with you more.

I happened to bring along my Current Mistress and when I tried explaining to her the significance and magnificence of The Blackening, she looked at me in a way that she often does since I tend to get overexcited about a lot of things and hype them beyond their actual worth. But after hearing Rob take 10 minutes of the show to relate a story about Dimebag and then connect it to why he wrote “Aesthetics of Hate” before launching into one of the most moving renditions of any song I’ve ever heard live, even the Mistress was in awe.

That word pretty much sums up the entire Machine Head live experience. All the things Brian talked about–power (“I Am Hell”), sincerity (“Aesthetics”), emotion (“Darkness Within”)–they all fail to truly capture the feeling of communion that Rob and the gang create among the audience. They embody everything that makes you proud to be a metalhead, enforcing their ferocity with the conviction of truth. Despite going astray midway through their career (an era they don’t ashamedly ignore but continue to embrace by plugging songs from every one of their albums into the live sets), the wisdom that comes with age and maturity veered Machine Head back to the path and in my opinion, and everyone else at the Best Buy Theater that night, they carry the torch higher and hotter than any of their contemporaries. They are THE metal band of our time, a fact they leave no room to doubt after seeing them command the stage.

Forget Buy/Try/Skip–I speak for the entire SIDESHOW when I say don’t miss your chance to see the best of the best being the best at what they do best.

Did you get a chance to see Machine Head live on the Unto the Locust Tour? Ever had the chance to see them at all? Let us know what you thought of their performance in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “From the Vault: A Not-So-LIVE REVIEW

  1. I was at the Best Buy Theater show and you guys summed it up quite well. The only thing I’ll add is just how awesome Phil Demmel is. Machine Head’s best albums have come after Phil Demmel joined the band, and in my opinion it is his solos and licks in songs such as Aesthetics of Hate and Be Still and Know that bring that extra element to Machine Head that separates them from what most of the other bands are doing today. Add that to all the things you said about Robb Flynn and you have a pair that only Hetfield and Hammett can compare to.

    The only other thing I have to say about the show is: which one of you guys caused the flood in the men’s room that night?

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