@ Newcastle o2 Academy, February 25 2010

To so many North East rock fans Machine Head were, until last night, a damn fine support band made for whipping arena-size crowds into a frenzy prior to the main event.

They’ve already proved the perfect fit for Slipknot, Metallica and their ilk but this was their chance to own the stage – in their own right. And 350-plus shows into the never-ending Blackening tour it was never going to be anything else than a monumental night of no-holds-barred metal.

If touring on the back of a record recently voted Metal Hammer’s disc of the decade is the kind of pressure many bigger names would struggle to handle then Machine Head don’t show it. They show plenty of everything else though – aggression, passion, emotion and devotion to the metal cause.

Watching Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel attack their fret boards as if their lives depended on it – especially during the magnificent Now I Lay Thee Down – was almost Maiden-esque in its slick execution. Bowing down to the gods of metal was a theme revisited throughout the set but let’s face it: Machine Head are fast becoming rock gods in their own fucking right.

Nobody could have complained if The Blackening had been played in its entirety such is the quality of every song on that career-defining opus and it’s mind boggling to think the album is already three years old. But the ‘new’ songs were interspersed with the old with careful consideration – a rare outing for Spine, from 1997’s The More Things Change… a unique and neat treat for the Newcastle crowd.

How Flynn’s voice is holding up after such a mammoth road trip is anyone’s guess but too often it was lost behind a bass line too heavy for its own good. We know how good Messrs Duce and McClain really are but we don’t need reminding at the expense of choice lyrics and a vocal delivery designed to inspire circle pits and sweaty pits in equal measure.

The dripping soldiers who dutifully patrolled the dangerous epicentre of an often volcanic human mass reached fever pitch as their favourites dipped into debut album Burn My Eyes before leaving the stage for the first time.

Their return signalled the onset of Halo and, perhaps, Machine Head’s crowning glory. The Blackening would be a monster of an album without this soaring, sprawling anthem. With it the record truly deserves the ‘classic’ tag and the band did full justice to a sensational song.

Where Machine Head go from here is anyone’s guess. The clamour to tour some more will be deafening but not so loud as the call for a brand new album. Tough times await a band coasting in the comfort zone of  the live arena they know so well. But we’d hazard a guess they’ll come through with flying colours.