Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Mon 14 May
You have to give them credit. San Francisco metal titans Machine Head rarely forget Wales when planning their tours and this year is no different. On the back of their latest album Catharsis – which, it has to be said, has divided opinion among fans – the Bay Area boys return to Cardiff once more with their Evening With concept, which means we get no support band, but more Head. Such was the demand for this show that it was upgraded from the Cardiff University’s Solus venue to the bigger Great Hall.
Ever-present frontman Rob Flynn leads his band onto the stage and so begins a mammoth 26 song set, kicking off with Imperium from 2003’s Through The Ashes Of Empires. A fine start indeed. Machine Head, sensibly if almost apologetically, drop the new material in amongst the more popular tracks, so Volatile from the latest album is followed by Now We Die. To be fair, they could probably play a set of jazz covers and the crowd, who seem right up for this, would probably respond in kind.
A warm Monday night gets a little bit more moist when The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears is hammered out, by which time Flynn has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Guitarist Phil Demmel gets an early chance to showcase his blistering guitar work with obligatory soloing, before Flynn returns to the stage with an acoustic guitar to lead us into Darkness Within. The lead track from Catharsis relies upon Cardiff providing some vocals, in which they duly oblige, and then it’s time for the first track from what I consider my era of Machine Head, the monstrous groove of Ten Ton Hammer. I almost came out of moshpit retirement for a second.
Flynn next asks Cardiff Is There Anybody Out There? and the response is a resounding yes. Dave Maclean reminds us why he is one of metal’s best drummers with a powerful solo before his comrades’ return to the stage for Bulldozer, from 2001’s Supercharger. It’s been reported of late that Flynn was thinking of ditching a certain Machine Head classic, its signature refrain “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast” perhaps inappropriate in today’s political climate; clearly he’s had a change of heart, as when Davidian, from MH’s debut album, is rolled out, pit chaos ensues.
Aesthetics Of Hate takes the boys into a well-earned break as the Cardiff crowd bay for more. The boys return with the frantic Game Over, followed by Old – another from their debut album – before the final call to arms comes in the form of Halo, from 2007’s The Blackening. At two and a half hours long, I thought that this might be just too much Machine Head, but a well-rounded set from one of metal’s finest was enough to suit young and old alike.
words CHRIS ANDREWS photos NATHAN ROACH