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MACHINE HEAD Live In Dublin, Ireland

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Monday, December 22, 2014 @ 2:04 PM

At The Academy Venue

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Review by Justin Ryan

November 2014 chalked up another two milestones in the life of Oakland's MACHINE HEAD. The release of their impressive eighth studio album Bloodstone & Diamonds also coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the band's unforgettable debut studio album, Burn My Eyes. A career to date that has been a roller coaster ride for both band members(past and present) and fans alike, tonight's performance in Dublin also marks MACHINE HEAD's twentieth anniversary of their first ever live concert performance outside of the U.S.A. On Sunday, November 6th, 1994, the quartet (of whom Flynn is the sole remaining original member) performed at Dublin's S.F.X. Center on Sherrard Street as guests to SLAYER, who were on the European leg of their Divine Intervention tour. Delivering memorable concerts in Dublin throughout the last two decades, tonight is the first time MACHINE HEAD have ever been booked to play The Academy venue (The S.F.X., The Ambassador and The Olympia having previously hosted them). This show concludes a five week European Tour which included an eleven date run of the U.K. and Ireland, following which the band will take a break for a month before commencing their delayed U.S. tour, which kicks off at Club Red Theater in Mesa, Arizona on January 16th.

On arrival at tonight's venue just after doors opening time of 7pm, surprisingly, the stage was already fully set up with MACHINE HEAD stage equipment and related paraphernalia. Advance notice had been given that DEVIL YOU KNOW, one of the two listed support bands, would definitely not be playing. However, no reason was given for DARKEST HOUR's non-appearance. A much earlier than expected start by any band would usually mean one of two things: an unscheduled early evening finish or an extra long, "An evening with..." type of performance. On this occasion, the latter applied but as it turned out, that wasn't all they had in store for their Irish fans.

At 8:03pm, the house lights were cut and OZZY OSBOURNE's "Diary Of A Madman" song was used as the intro to the show. The stage had been arranged with a large red and black MACHINE HEAD backdrop banner hung above the drum kit which was also complimented by four other matching on stage free standing banner props bearing the band's diamond and lions crest logo. Their appearance from the stage wings was greeted by an ear splitting ovation, the band attired all in black to a man tore into "Imperium" from 2003's Through The Ashes Of Empires. The sheer sonic power and the musicianship exhibited in its flawless delivery was utterly breathtaking. Second song of the night was "Beautiful Mourning", which was no less dramatic than the opener. "Now We Die" was next up and included at one point the house lights being switched fully back on to encourage the crowd to sing along. The strength of the material found on the most recent four studio albums was reflected by eight of the concert's first ten tunes being chosen from those works. "From This Day" and "Ten Ton Hammer" were chosen to represent material from The Burning Red and The More Things Change, respectively. The former sounded like a pop song compared to what went before on the night, the latter still impresses but sounds like material from a different band when placed beside "In Comes The Flood" and "Darkness Within".

There are many striking aspects to a MACHINE HEAD live concert. One is the amazing stage presence and musicianship the band have; their wall of sound is utterly staggering. Add to that Robb Flynn's master of (chaotic) ceremonies ability to orchestrate the crowd into being a key part of the concert never fails to raise a smile. However, most striking and memorable are the differences in sound delivered reflecting the different sound eras in the band's career. The outright fury and adrenaline of their first record, Burn My Eyes and the less thrashy, more heavily groove orientated second effort, The More Things Change, are both albums of undeniable quality, time having failed to date their sound one bit. Equally as noticeable is the difference in the post 2002 material, it being a different kind of heaviness to early works. Although no less heavy and in many cases heavier, much longer songs containing unexpected and unpredictable parts with interesting, complex structures, the songs are more epic sounding as opposed to being in the flat out thrash/groove style from the first two albums. This allows the band to take their fans at their concerts on a journey of sonic twists and turns, soaring highs and none more dark lows. For those in attendance, those contrasts of sound aren't easily forgotten.

The twelfth song of the show and a strong contender for song of the night was the incredibly ferocious "Killers And Kings". One of only a small number of decent quality songs that came out of their cringe inducing Nu Metal years, "Bulldozer" had preceded it, surprisingly holding its own in the live environment. Before it was played, Robb Flynn took time to speak about the historical significance of the band's twentieth anniversary on the road. "You know Dublin, this year marks the twentieth anniversary of Burn My Eyes and twenty years of MACHINE HEAD touring. Twenty years, we cant believe it. I remember us coming to Dublin in 1994 as support to the mighty, mighty SLAYER. I can't remember the name of the venue we played, I think it was the Ambassador [it was the S.F.X. Center, Robb]. It was the first time we'd ever played outside of the continent of the U.S.A. and I'll always remember being blown away by the Dublin crowd's singing of the chorus of "Davidian". We had played that song a bunch of times in America and the audience didn't sing it with us. I couldn't believe the response we got to it in Dublin. I still remember the goose bumps I got when I heard the crowd roaring back, "Let freedom ring..." at me that night. I've never forgotten that and that's one of the reasons Dublin means so much to this band. Another thing that matters a great deal to this band is getting to play live to our fans. We're four real musicians, playing real music, for real people who want to see a real band, we're not a guy sitting at home making music on his laptop. What matters so much to us is when we come to venues like this and we get a response like the one you've given us tonight. That means everything to us, Dublin, everything." While reflecting on his career to date, it can't but have occurred to Flynn that Nu Metal's sudden death was one of the best things that ever happened to this band; had Nu Metal's inexplicable popularity lasted, one wonders whether the excellent material found on the last four MACHINE HEAD albums would have even interested record labels.

"Davidian" followed "Killers And Kings" and when Flynn called for crowd surfing to accompany the song, the crowd delivered. The band were suitably impressed with what they saw, applauding the crowd's efforts at the conclusion of the song. In a concert otherwise without fault, it has to be said that their decision to play the last minute and a quarter of this song at a much slower pace to the album's crushing original was a tinker too far; why alter an iconic classic? Two in a row, "Sail Into The Black" and "Now I Lay Thee Down" from Bloodstone & Diamonds then followed. "Aesthetics Of Hate" was dedicated by Flynn to "my brother, our brother, Dimebag Darrell", its delivery containing a jaw dropping intensity matched only by that in "Game Over". "Old" was the penultimate song of the night and although late on in the show, the crowd's participation rivaled their own vocals heard earlier in the chorus of "Davidian". "Halo", from The Blackening was chosen to close the incredible two and a half hour show, the band paying tribute again to the fans and their road crew before on stage photos were taken of the crowd and of the band. When the house lights were switched back on at the venue, most presumed that the band's performance was completed for the night. However, the reason for the 8pm start became apparent later on when news broke that the band had performed a one hour secret "show after the show" set at a two hundred person rock club/bar named Fibber Magees. Fittingly, in another piece of MACHINE HEAD history, its location is a mere fifty meters from The Ambassador venue (now an exhibition center) which MACHINE HEAD had played numerous times on previous tours.

Setlist(At The Academy):

  • "Imperium"
  • "Beautiful Mourning"
  • "Now We Die"
  • "Bite The Bullet
  • "Locust"
  • "Beneath The Silt"
  • "From This Day"
  • "Ten Ton Hammer"
  • "In Comes The Flood"
  • "Darkness Within"
  • "Bulldozer"(preceded by "Declaration")
  • "Killers & Kings"
  • "Davidian"
  • "Sail Into The Black"
  • "Now I Lay Thee Down"
  • "Aesthetics Of Hate"
  • "Game Over"
  • "Old"
  • "Halo"
Setlist(At Fibber Magee's Rock Club):
  • "War Pigs" (BLACK SABBATH)
  • "Iron Man" (BLACK SABBATH)
  • "The Blood, The Sweat, the Tears"
  • "The Number of the Beast" (IRON MAIDEN)
  • "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (IRON MAIDEN)
  • "Walk" (PANTERA)
  • "Creeping Death" (METALLICA)
  • "Territory" (SEPULTURA)
  • "The Trooper" (IRON MAIDEN)

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