Machine Head February 19, Vinyl.
In Flames February 22, House of Blues.
If you can judge the success of a heavy metal concert by the size of its moshpit, then Machine Head’s February 19 show at Vinyl was a much bigger success than the triple bill headlined by In Flames at the House of Blues three days later. But really, both shows were testaments to the continuing power of heavy metal, a genre that has been increasingly marginalized over the past decade, even within the rock community. The moshpits in general might be smaller, but the fans are just as devoted, and the music is just as powerful.
The Machine Head fans were the most dedicated, loudly chanting “Machine f*cking Head!” while waiting for the band to take the stage. Billed as “An Evening With Machine Head,” the show lived up to its lofty title, offering a thorough overview of the band’s career, including songs from all eight Machine Head albums. With no opening act, the band played for nearly two and a half hours, and the audience’s enthusiasm never waned. The moshpit started during the first song and pretty much never let up; before “Killers & Kings,” singer-guitarist Robb Flynn called for a huge circle pit that ended up engulfing what seemed like a third of the floor space in the relatively full venue.
Before launching into “Darkness Within,” a soaring ode to the power of music from 2011’s excellent Unto the Locust, Flynn told the audience that the band’s first-ever gig outside of its Bay Area home base, 22 years ago, was at the Huntridge Theatre.
“It was the first step on a journey,” he said, and while Flynn is the only original band member still on that journey, he and his current bandmates certainly did justice to the music created along the way.
Although Swedish band In Flames has a history just as extensive as Machine Head’s, their HOB set was only about half as long, capping off an uneven show opened by Wovenwar and All That Remains. Wovenwar’s half-hour set was marred by terrible sound, with the guitars completely drowned in the mix despite the presence of three guitar players, and the response from the sparse crowd was tepid. All That Remains, who’ve headlined HOB themselves, fared much better, with a set that mixed brutal intensity and catchy melodies.
The balcony was still almost entirely empty when In Flames took the stage, but the floor was full enough for some decent moshing. Frontman Anders Fridén was in a jovial mood, joking about his bandmates’ attractiveness and the quality of the beer being consumed by the crowd. The 16-song set lasted just 70 minutes, and tended to highlight the sameness of the band’s songs. But it also highlighted their musical efficiency, in contrast to Machine Head’s often-sprawling compositions. “I don’t say this is the only way, but this is our way,” Fridén said about the Swedish approach to heavy metal. In Flames’ way and Machine Head’s way both proved to be the right way for the heavy metal faithful.