Oakland-based metal titans Machine Head make their eagerly anticipated return to Tyneside for their first show in the region since 2014.

Earlier this year Machine Head released their groundbreaking new album Catharsis. The band’s latest offering showcases a slightly different direction for the Cali four-piece with a very grooving and somewhat melodic sound. After all, what’s the point of standing still and releasing the same album over and over again? Artists must have the freedom to push their musical boundaries and channel their creativity and by doing so they keep things interesting for themselves and their followers alike.

The band’s legions of diehard fans are out in force this evening. With no support act, the packed out Newcastle crowd brace themselves for an almost three-hour musical marathon billed simply as ‘An Evening With Machine Head’. Tonight’s show marks one of the last three dates of the band’s current European jaunt.

Adding to the spectacle of the event, the US-based quartet brings with them in tow an arena-sized production that covers every inch of the O2 Academy Newcastle stage. With a backdrop covering 180 degrees of the rear walls, a gargantuan drum riser, a blinding lighting rig, smoke canons front of the stage and the band’s prominent logo branded from floor to ceiling the fans are under no illusion who they are here to witness this evening.

As the house lights fall roaring chants of ‘Machine Fucking Head’ resonate loudly around the room. Flynn grasping his trademark Flying V appears from the rear of the stage before the band kicks off the proceedings with a triple whammy of “Imperium”, “Now We Die” and new track “Volatile”.

Machine Head has gone on to release an impressive nine studio albums since their formation back in 1991. With an extensive back catalogue to choose from the band’s carefully selected set list perfectly represents each of their studio releases.

Machine Head whip the crowd into a frenzy with tracks like “This Is The End” which is executed at breakneck speed; old favourite “From This Day” with its hypnotic guitar riffs along with the groove-heavy “Ten Ton Hammer”.

All night long Machine Head comes together seamlessly like a huge wall of sound which is typified by their patented harmonics used to accentuate their crunchy guitar riffs and the band’s pulsating thunderous rhythm. During the course of the show, both lead guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain each take the opportunity to deliver ferocious solo spots.

As the setlist ebbs and flows the band showcase a slightly slower side of their repertoire with songs like the acoustic-tinged “Descend the Shades of Night” and “Darkness Within”, which gives the crowd a moment to catch their breath.  Prior to the aforementioned number, Flynn delivers a heartfelt address commemorating the one year anniversary of the Manchester terror attacks.

Despite the fact that Machine Head has a new album under their belt only a small smattering of songs from Catharsis feature in the set tonight. This includes a brutal airing of the mosh pit inducing “Triple Beam” along with the title track itself. Each of the band’s freshest cuts are the perfect example of contemporary metal at its best, representing a sound which reflects the genre as it stands in 2018. Whilst pushing their distinctive sound further, these numbers are still undeniably Machine Head at the core.

Towering over the crowd from centre stage Robb Flynn orchestrates the madness; the fans obey his every command. During a frantic airing of “Killers and Kings,” the biggest circle pit we’ve ever witnessed at the O2 Academy Newcastle opens up and engulfs the whole room.

As the band hurtle towards the end of their 26 song set they wheel out a whole raft of classics that includes emphatic renditions of “Davidian”, “None But My Own” and “Old” from the band’s seminal debut album Burn My Eyes; a sincere delivery of “Aesthetics of Hate” dedicated to ‘brother Dimebag’ before bringing the show to its explosive conclusion with “Halo”.

Whilst many groups almost 30 years into their career would be looking for safe ground and to coast along with their tried and tested formula, Machine Head’s bold decision to forge new paths and keep on pushing onwards and upwards is one of the reasons why they are still without a doubt one of the most exciting bands in metal today.

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Machine Head
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Event Date: 22-May-2018

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.