An Evening with Machine Head at Rock City

This tour has been but a tiny dot on the horizon throughout a long and miserable winter. At last, we can rejoice because Machine Head have arrived in the UK and tonight the boys roll into Nottingham.

The queue leading to Rock City has been slowly building all afternoon and by doors time, it extends up the road, around the corner and into the multi-story car park around the back. There are no casual latecomers tonight as there will be no support acts, just approximately three hours of Machine Head.

Sounds a bit like heaven. A hairy, sweaty, crowded and god damn raucous heaven complete with a slight stench of stale Carlsberg and body odour. But, close enough to heaven for us.

By the time we get our hands on some refreshments and get ourselves settled in, the lights are already down. The inevitable and most customary chant of “MACHINE-Fuckin-HEAD” has been doing the rounds for half an hour or so, but now comes into full force as the smoke machine billows and an icy blue light illuminates the spanking new ‘Catharsis’ backdrops.

‘Imperium’ opens up the show like a baseball bat to the face and with the immortal show-opening lyrics of “Hear me noooow” the whole of Rock City instantly rages with Machine Head. The floor turns into bedlam and the crowd roars back every chorus line like their lives depend on it.

With vast venues like London’s Roundhouse and the expansive Manchester Academy all completely sold out on this leg of the UK tour; we are lucky to get Machine Head up close and personal on the slightly more cramped Rock City stage. Naturally, this is another sold out show tonight.

Robb recalls (as he has done ever since Machine Head supported Metallica at Notts Arena on ‘The Blackening’ cycle) that Nottingham was the first place in which Machine Head headlined in the UK, on this very stage at Rock City.

“Twenty-four years later and we’re still here doing it, and people still give a shit!”

It goes without saying, people do really give a shit about this band and as the crowd give Robb and co. a 700 beer can salute, it’s on with thrashing our faces off.

As you would expect from a three hour show, we get a robust run-through of the many eras of Machine Head. ‘Volatile’ slides into the set like it has been around for decades and the place goes completely off the scale when the national anthem of the headcases kicks in. How could anyone not get involved with ‘The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears’?

But, that’s nothing when compared to the incredible bounce that ‘From This Day’ creates. A song so routinely ridiculed on the good old internet; received with utter joy by the most partisan of Machine Head crowds.

The new extended format of Machine Head show comes complete with guitar and drum solos and a chance for Robb to greet the crowd a few times. ‘Darkness Within’ is a prime song for Robb to convey the power of music and it’s healing powers. “This shit makes us feel alive” he beams. We concur.

The cloud of steam hanging over the pits, the moshing up on the balconies and the beads of sweat running down the walls are all signs that this is a gig has one hell of an explosive atmosphere. The crowd bellow back chorus after chorus and those hardcore headcases amongst us can even recite Robb’s instructions in the right places.

”Headbang Motherfucker!” is one of the easier ones…

The encore has it all too. From the tender ‘Descend the shades…’ to the riotous ‘Aesthetics of Hate’ it is simply hit after hit. As Phil unleashes the big guitar solo in ‘Halo’ the confetti canons fire for a big finale and we’re smothered in a sea of colourful paper like we’ve been tarred and feathered. It’s a bit sticky in here…

That was a truly awesome gig from start to finish, the crowd’s enthusiasm was only matched by the bands ability to put one colossal show on for us. It’s rare to see a band and audience so tuned in together, but that connection is there for all to see, night after night. It may be a rough Monday night slot for Nottingham this time around, but this gig had the atmosphere of a beer soaked and care-free Friday night. Everyone has been just completely engaged in the experience and what a truly epic and exuberant experience it was… As Robb said earlier:

“This shit makes us feel alive!”