Robb Flynn is a warrior born. Early in the year — the team captain of a band with a very complicated trajectory that took them from groove metal to nu-metal to thrash to a place where they embrace their entire history–stopped a show 45 minutes into what was to be a 2 1/2 hour spectacular after a throat infection put up an insurmountable wall.
A date was rescheduled. Tickets from the prior date were honored.
It was near Halloween. Ghosts surrounded the gig. There had been lingering controversy surrounding Robb Flynn’s anti-racist views. Half the band was reported to be leaving. Doubts arose regarding Machine Head’s future. And they’ve always had detractors.
A hate crime scarred the city over the weekend.
It was time for an exorcism.
Machine Head returned last night with renewed purpose and lifeforce, pummeling Stage AE for 3 hours and 20 minutes, visiting all points of their catalogue and beyond. Obligations were repaid in full and then some.
Be it tracks from their debut, their latest in Catharsis, The Blackening, Unto The Locust, or polarizing works such as The Burning Red, all was represented in earnest. Even an Iron Maiden cover, performed expertly and reverently, found its way into the set along with a fractured and scattered medley of Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, and Alice In Chains selections.
One would never know that this tour marked the end of a chapter. Flynn, Demmel, MacEachern, and McClain played tightly, aggressively and with a profound hunger, their underground pedigrees in bands like Vio-Lence, Forbidden, and Sacred Reich holding them in good stead. It was a pleasure to not only listen to them pick, pluck, and slam so exactingly, but to watch them do it with such ease was exhilarating, their fortress of a stage set and martial lighting rigs providing an intense and vivid backdrop for what was a blitzkrieg for the senses.
The concert’s absolute highlight came with the emotive, introspective, autobiographical, and triumphantly inspirational “Darkness Within,” which began with a lengthy monologue about, gratitude, perseverance and tolerance followed by a moment of silence for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre that occurred over the weekend.
The marathon set concluded with a rousing rendition of “Halo” and a group photo. Fans who had been headbanging, moshing, running in circle pits, and screaming for a long, long evening were physically, emotionally, and spiritually 15 minutes before midnight. Machine Head had given them fury and decibels and love until they could barely stand, and for that they were thankful. The disappointment from months back had been forgotten and forgiven forever.
I recall Robb Flynn saying once in an interview that he missed the freewheeling seventies and how bands would rock on and on with no curfew, bashing away until the early morning without a care for tomorrow.
Now I see where he was coming from.