MACHINE HEAD - "Burn My Eyes" 25th Anniversary Show
Date: 15th February, 2020
Venue: The Metro
Ticket: $40 / €37
There are shows, concerts, events and all kinds of festivities to choose from as the means for one’s entertainment on a Saturday night. In the Metal scene, there is an additional item in this unofficial list, and it’s a rare and hence extremely special one. Normally, such rare occasions happen once or maybe twice during a tour on handpicked locations, simply because you cannot have an entire ‘special’ tour. Or can you? Well, if it is MACHINE HEAD we are talking about, then you bet you can have an entire tour being borderline abnormal… I mean, I cannot think of any other band putting together 3+ hour shows, full of constant headbanging / moshing and all other Metal ‘activities’ under the sun...
I am not a die-hard social media user (not even close) and in hindsight I am happy I wasn’t as far as this concert is concerned. You see, MACHINE HEAD had to cancel the show before Chicago because Robb Flynn and Logan Mader were suffering from the flu and strep throat. I learned this by eavesdropping on a couple of concerned fans while waiting in line to enter The Metro. It felt extremely logical to miss this show too because being that sick makes sweating your arse off and screaming to the mic impossible tasks. Again, this discussion would be valid only if MACHINE HEAD were not part of it. This means that the show went as planned with the venue ‘flirting’ with being sold out as the time to hit the stage was approaching.
Without someone else on the billing, the venue had only MACHINE HEAD fans inside and were ready to start the show with the trademark chanting “MACHINE f*****g HEAD” only stopping the moment the “Imperium” intro started blasting off through the PAs. Damn, it was electric seeing Robb almost strolling his way to the center of the stage obviously being exhausted from the flu, and seconds later, snapping out of it… “Chicago, raise your fists in the air”, said Robb and everything was forgotten… I guess this was due to the adrenaline rush that makes the human body to overcome anything, because “Imperium” sounded awesome. Yeah, it felt like there was no warming up period with MACHINE HEAD stepping hard on the gas pedal and then forgetting to take their foot off. “You came to f*****g party with us”, said Robb before asking from the fans to raise their beer glasses, with the bassline hitting us right between the eyes for “Take My Scars”. The rather hectic task to take photos with those lights ended after two songs and therefore I got my chance to enjoy the shivers-down-your-spine “Now We Die”. With the photographers out of the picture, the band looked more relaxed, adding more energy into the already vein-popping start. Oh man, we had just boarded on a fast-moving roller-coaster only to realize that the breaks were broken… But this is exactly what we had signed for, and the guys on stage kept us busy with my favorite “Beautiful Mourning” (don’t you love the opening lyric line of this one?) before letting Robb start the clean guitar intro of “Locust”. The chanting during the latter song’s main riff was amazing and hearing Robb saying “put your phones down and enjoy the moment” made sense because there is no resolution high enough to capture what was going on inside The Metro.
With red lights coloring the stage, the intro for “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” turned the heat up a notch; “I want to see a bigger mosh-pit. Open up and push back”, asked Robb and everyone happily concurred. Oh yeah, the moment the tempo entered the red zone, gals and guys were moving in circle, putting the cherry on this - already - sweaty cake. This was the moment when the show became a blur to me with emotions mixing with headbanging, moshing and lots of sweat despite the frigid cold outside. Damn, I had missed seeing this band onstage and this feeling was adding to the already overwhelming excitement.
It is tough to cherry pick the songs from this part of the set, but if you were to twist my arm, then I would choose “Darkness Within”. Robb showed up with an acoustic guitar and after talking a bit about his recent flu / pneumonia ‘flirt’, he recalled the times MACHINE HEAD had been in Chicago, making special reference to the show supporting SLAYER and the one during the “Burn My Eyes” tour. What he said and the way he said it, made “Darkness Within” feel even more emotional, challenging once more the mosh-pitting expertise of the MACHINE HEAD family inside The Metro. And to follow this with “Catharsis”? Oh yeah, no prisoners were taken, my friends, that night.
“Let us take you back to 1999”, said Robb and made me feel kind of old… I still consider the ‘90s a bit recent, simply because I remember those days clearly, especially as far as the music is concerned. But Metal knows no age and there I was jumping up and down as “From This Day” required. I still remember watching the music video for “Ten Ton Hammer” in “Headbanger’s Ball” when the ‘M’ in MTV actually stood for ‘music’. “Is there anybody out there?”, asked Robb and the loud cheer and the singing-along “Is The Anybody Out There?” was the best answer he could get.
Normally, choosing to do a cover meant that the show would soon be done and therefore “Hallowed Be Thy Name” would be the best way to drop the curtain on this adrenaline-injected show. Of course, the action hit the red zone (once again) and it was awesome seeing the band behaving as fans of this music. This is one of rare occasions when the distinction / separation between the fans and the band fades away under the sweat and the energy both parties bring in. “You’ve signed for a three-hour show and we are not even half-way done yet”, said Robb before the equally amazing “Halo”. “We are gonna take a ten-minute break”, he added and the band left the stage only to let the “Burn My Eyes” aesthetics to hind what was next.
It took less than 10 minutes to get MACHINE HEAD back onstage with two lineup changes; Logan Mader and Chris Kontos took their spots on stage left and behind the drums, respectively, and before long the characteristic guitar riff of “Davidian” kicked off, the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the MACHINE HEAD debut. Believe it or not, there was more energy (!) inside The Metro, so I guess MACHINE HEAD did an amazing job opening for… MACHINE HEAD. During this part of the set, there was less talking with the focus being on delivering this album in the best way possible. If I were to choose my favorites from this set, I would go with “Old” (love its groove), the drum-driven “The Rage To Overcome” – pushing the moshing to the red – and “Blood For Blood” during which the lights turned to red, making the already sweaty setting pretty awesome.
“Are you up for some covers on this Saturday night, Chicago?”, asked Robb and I don’t think there was anyone who did not scream a loud and clear “hell yeah”. Without further ado, the clean guitar intro revealed the first cover; “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” did hit a nerve with everyone started singing-along, with the fast part of “One” concluding the METALLICA suite. Bassist Jared MacEachern screamed to the mic, setting the mood for the next cover that was ACCEPT’s “Fast As A Shark”. This was delivered with the appropriate energy and a bit faster, but I don’t think it was recognized by the majority of the fans inside the venue. This, however, did not happen for Rob Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss '65” that immediately set a “dancing tone”… SLAYER was the main focus for the next and final two covers with “South Of Heaven” and “Raining Blood”; the guitar riff of the former and the drum groove of the latter are more than enough to get our heart rate into the red zone. “This is the last from “Burn My Eyes””, said Robb before letting “Block” drop the curtain for this high endurance performance that went on a bit more than 3 hours. After the appropriate “selfies”, all the band members (from both sets) remained onstage and gave away lots of bass and guitar picks and drumsticks. It was quite entertaining seeing everyone hunting for those goodies all around, and that was another thing to remember from this amazing concert.
To my mind, this has already entered the history books being the appropriate way to celebrate the release of “Burn My Eyes”. I hope Robb and Logan will not suffer the consequences for not holding back from their Chicago performance as they are fighting the flu. Thank you, gentlemen! See you next time in the pit!
MACHINE HEAD setlist:
02. “Take My Scars”
03. “Now We Die”
04. “Beautiful Mourning”
06. “I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)”
07. “Aesthetics Of Hate”
08. Guitar Solo
09. “Darkness Within”
11. “From This Day”
12. “Ten Ton Hammer”
13. “Is There Anybody Out There?”
14. “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
16. “Burn My Eyes”
17. “Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies” (intro)
20. “A Thousand Lies”
21. “None But My Own”
22. Drum Solo
23. “The Rage To Overcome”
24. “Death Church”
25. “A Nation On Fire”
26. “Blood For Blood”
27. “I'm Your God Now”
28. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” / “One” / “Fast As A Shark” / “Thunder Kiss '65” / “South Of Heaven” / “Raining Blood”
(click to enlarge)