Live: Machine Head @ The Waterfront, Norwich (03/08/14)

Machine Head at The Waterfront ticket

 

Machine Head

Hostile

It was a long time ago that Machine Head outgrew places like Norwich. Big band, who just seem to keep growing, getting better with maturity? Too right. They haven’t needed to play places like this for many a year; just take a straight line down the middle and hit the regional big. Easy to fill, easy to kill.

Still it’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since this city last shook to Machine Head’s riffs. We could kiss them then for announcing the Killers and Kings tour – a handful of dates in small lost-in-the-fringes places, overlooked but still loyal. Here at The Waterfront, Norwich, tickets sold out in moments. Clearly this has been a long time coming.

At just 700-or-so capacity, the sizeable early crowd is already enough to make the place feel full. Probably because of all the anticipation they’ve brought in with them. It’s an atmosphere that’s great as a punter, and most likely a touch intimidating for whichever poor sods are the support.

Which would be the Midlands’ Hostile (7/10). Although there are no nerves in sight – probably worked them out on the previous nights. Instead frontman Jay Mills bounds to the fore, doing his shouting in the guise of Phil Anselmo from about 25 years ago – all floppy mohawk and shirtless posturing. In fact much of the vocal style and the groove leanings of the riffs remind of Pantera. Not to say the guys don’t make a good go of it, there’s some sweet stuff buried in there, although “I Don’t Give A Fuck” is one of those lyrically-bleurgh songs that takes a bad day to make you wanna join in. And this crowd are only here for a good time.

Some people will be seeing Machine Head for the first time tonight. For others this is another tally mark. Likelihood is though no one here has ever seen them this close, in this small, this intimate, a venue. Where from the front row it’s not too much of a stretch to reach out and touch them. Never before has it been this real.

“Hear me NOOWWWW” roars Robb Flynn as Machine Head (9/10) set things in motion for one hell of a night with the call-to-arms of “Imperium”. And shit is completely lost as every single damn person in attendance attempts to make the front of the stage. Whether it’s the newer buzz of “Locust” or the older fury of “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, there is no let up, no looking for air. Just Machine fucking Head breathed in and out.

The Waterfront’s low ceilings always seem to turn it into a sweatbox at the slightest hint of a crowd gathering. But tonight isn’t sweaty, it’s just wet, arms sliding off their neighbours glistening skin as they’re raised in the air. Another time maybe someone would care. Now though no-one does.

And then the “Darkness Within” soars out of the speakers. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, each note building the song into a monument to music, a love song that anyone who’s ever felt the touch of a track that manages to express everything they’re feeling – whether happy, sad or angry – can relate to. That second verse just cuts across with a power so strongly felt that you expect the notes to burst into being before your eyes.

The expectation of “Davidian” makes it seem all the more louder when it does arrive, ringing out like the musical shrapnel of two barrels chock-full of awesome. Meanwhile “Aesthetics Of Hate” sees the band sound like they’re still trying to work out something, to channel those feelings through guitar and drum and voice to make some sense of it. And with no sense to be found it’s no wonder that this song continues to brim with anger.

And then comes “Halo”, that beauty and beast of a song. The perfect closing epic. Taking a break from his ever endearing stream of face pulling Phil Demmel, and Robb, crack out the solos with perfect timing, and almost perfect execution – save for the odd string slip from the sweat. As Robb croons “And I won’t pray for you”, every voice still capable of singing takes up the cry. They sing as though they know this is a once in a lifetime moment, never to be repeated, always to be remembered.

They’re not the only ones. Speaking like a man who can still be surprised by crowd reactions, and seemingly delighted at tonight’s, Robb reflects “You can forget a motherfucker in 17 years.” Not when that motherfucker is Machine Head. This city, this scene remember – no matter how much Machine Head outgrows this place, it will never outgrow Machine Head. So let’s not leave it another 17 years, yeah?

Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs

Freelance writer. Most likely found in a mosh pit. Or maybe Bat Country.

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