If Montrealers have proven one thing, it’s that we’re always ready for a metal show. It doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, if there’s heavy to be had, we’ll show up with a drink in hand, and horns in the air. Was it really a surprise to anyone that Machine Head sold out Club Soda on February 11th, without any other band on the bill? The place had a bit of breathing room only except for the pit, which provided a little space for spinning.
As the volume began to rise toward the end of the house pumping Ozzy’s “Diary of a Madman” through the speakers, every eye turned toward the stage. Then the lights went out, and “Imperium’s” opening strum rang through the room. It was barely 21 on the clock and already horns, fists, and middle fingers were being thrown in the air from every direction.
The first of precious few moments of respite came maybe seven songs into the show. Robb Flynn stood in front of a black acoustic guitar under a spotlight and welcomed us to an evening with Machine Head. He spoke for quite a while, thanking various people and informing us that this night marked 31 years of him making music with Machine Head co-founder Phil Demmel. He also gave cheers to Montreal bar “Foufounes Electrock, or whatever” saying that he had fond memories there. (I think they should officially change their name to that.) While this went on, he played the opening chords to “Darkness Within.” What a tease.
Flynn and the rest of the band were fully decked out in white denim. If you’re ex-member, Adam Duce, you hate it. If you’re literally anyone else, you probably couldn’t give a sh*t. The rest of the stage was painted top to bottom in black and white machine head logos. Honestly, it kind of looked like a chess board.
For the better part of two hours, Machine Head made that stage their mistress. This was a band playing at the very top of their game. It’s no secret that their back catalogue is as extensive as it is divisive, but they didn’t shy away from any era, and no one complained. There was “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears,” “From This Day” and of course “Davidian” for the 90s fans. They even played “Is Anybody Out There?,” their one-off 2016 single. Of course, there was both a guitar and drum solo. For Flynn’s he started off by demonstrating as many pinch harmonic techniques as possible before launching into a tasty barrage of speedy sweeps and arpeggios. Dave McClain’s own solo showed off just how proficient he is as a drummer, and it led into the national anthem style “Bastards” from the band’s latest release Catharsis.
Machine Head blistered their way through 23 songs and not once did Flynn’s powerful roar show any signs of weakening. They didn’t skimp on the encore either. A quartet of some of their most beloved songs culminated in the huge slab of groove metal that is “Halo” from their critical darling 2007 album The Blackening. Flynn asked the crowd to stay for one more minute so that he could grab a selfie with the band and the crowd in the background. After what really didn’t feel like two hours, we made our way outside into the slushy Montreal winter and the reality of a Monday morning that awaited us shortly. As they say, that’s what you get living life on a “Triple Beam.” (They didn’t play that.)
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy