Sometimes the smartest ideas are the simplest ones. When Machine Head announced that they were to tour the UK playing only a select number of small venues, they created a deafening buzz among their diehard fanbase that will surely now transport them forward through the release of their long-awaited new album and beyond.
More importantly, perhaps, there are few metal bands of this stature that could seem so at home in such an intimate setting. Anyone that has witnessed the booze-fuelled chaos of a Ten Ton Hammer show will know exactly what we mean. Tonight was never going to be anything other than sweaty, full-throttle carnage.
Kicking into top gear from the outset with a pummelling Imperium, this feels more like a reaffirmation of values than a pre-album promotional exercise. All four members of Machine Head are clearly having an amazing time and the presence of new(ish) bassist Jared MacEachern has given the band an air of rejuvenation and renewed intent. The likes of Beautiful Mourning and Locust may have been played on countless occasions, but in the summer of 2014 they exude an edge that only comes when bands have new reasons to be excited by their own music. This bodes well for Bloodstone And Diamonds, the follow-up to the brilliant but polarising Unto The Locust, and even more so for the ‘proper’ tour that will inevitably follow. There’s fire in Robb Flynn’s eyes tonight, not least during a particularly rowdy charge through The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears and a vicious return visit to unsung gem Bite The Bullet, and Phil Demmel smiles so hard during Bulldozer’s cudgelling main riff that one briefly fears that his face will split. Meanwhile the crowd is going berserk, hurling themselves through clouds of beer and sweat and making more noise than this seaside venue has ever heard. Davidian nearly brings the ceiling crashing down.
They close with the now ubiquitous Halo, newly augmented with Jared’s powerhouse backing vocals and delivered with an intensity that harks back to the snotty, speed-driven Machine Head of 1994. A band reborn? Almost certainly. One of the greatest live bands of all time? You fucking know it.