Who would have predicted three years ago that Machine Gun Kelly’s career would go through such a boost? Probably only a handful of people outside of himself, but his switch to pop punk has clearly done him no harm. The albums Tickets To My Downfall and mainstream sellout were an unexpected hit that allowed him to significantly increase his fan base and above all underline his versatility as an artist. Hall 12 was therefore more than nicely filled for the enfant terrible, who played his Belgian audience with great enthusiasm and a grand production.
44phantom has the honor to open the festivities. The traffic chaos and the public transport strike ensured that there were not too many people in the central square. In any case, the latecomers did not miss many. 44phantom’s performance was full of clichés and could therefore hardly surprise us. His three-piece band hardly added anything to the compositions and sounded like a group that was fairly passé fifteen years ago. We weren’t too big a fan of 44phantom’s vocals, edited with autotune, especially when he went a bit higher. The 44phantom project still needs a lot of planing to get authenticity in it, that much became clear yesterday.
Just under twenty minutes later, iann dior didn’t do much better, although he did have the audience with him. He owes this mainly to his mega hit “Mood”, which he naturally brought out yesterday. Before that, he served us on some meager fare with a little hit in between to keep things alive. The guitarist he was carrying only played a supporting role and couldn’t compete with the music that popped out of the boxes. Iann Dior made an effort to keep the audience on their toes. He regularly asked to put his hands in the air and shortly before the end he even asked for a moshpit. “let you” did stir something up at the end with the catchy chorus, but that wasn’t enough to straighten out the rest. A small disappointment, that was iann dior during his first Belgian concert ever.
Machine Gun Kelly had a helicopter built especially for his first arena tour, which he immediately used during the opening song “born with horns”. Dangling wildly, the daredevil flew over the audience/stage and set Palace 12 on fire very quickly. After proven service, the helicopter was allowed to go to the roof of the room for the rest of the performance, while Kelly took up the guitar for the first time on the evening itself for “god save me”. The song got off to a slow start and needed a first sing-along moment from the audience to get everyone on board. Fortunately, “God save me” took care of a higher gear after that and the whole band played it wonderfully tight together. With the subsequent hit “maybe” (unfortunately without the physical presence of Bring Me The Horizon frontman Olli Sykes) guitarists Jus Lions and Sophie Lloyd even got a moment to shake a solo out of his mouth. Nice start in other words.
The helicopter wasn’t the only set piece that stood out. The extravagant microphone stand was a real eye-catcher, just like the large fireballs that shot into the air during, for example, “Floor 13”. In other words, there was no shortage of show elements, although the centerpiece was always MGK. He didn’t have many binding texts in store and if he did pull them out, it was fairly predictable (eg a lot of ‘Brussels sprouts’). For “papercuts” a gigantic robot was blown up, but luckily the beautiful version got all the attention. Incidentally, it was one of the few songs where Baker brought out his best guitar skills. Something he should have done more often for us.
In between there were also some lesser moments in the show. The Lil Wayne collaboration “ay” sounded at least as easy as the studio version yesterday and also during “roll the windows up” we (despite an enthusiastic fan on stage) lacked some tension to be able to stand out. On “don’t sleep, repeat” 44phantom once again provided some false notes, but this time the band filled it up with some tightness. Furthermore, the acoustic snack with “way are you here” and “jawbreaker” took the performance off the stage at the wrong time after “I Think I’m OKAY” had set the hall ablaze. Of course you can’t always pop, but the attention faded for a while.
The short and resolute diptych “WWIII” and “WW4” provided fire (and pyro), songs that pass on the record without really striking the ear. They were also over in Brussels in no time and it was difficult to label them as a highlight. And yet they fitted perfectly into the concert atmosphere and ensured a growing enthusiasm towards the end. Shortly before, Eminem’s diss track “El Diablo” was a short-lived intermezzo that was fitted into the set with some heavier guitar work (and accompanying moshpits), but we still had to wait for some hits. “emo girl” and “glass house” were brought out at the right time. Singing and dancing was the order of the day! Also “I Think I’m OKAY” was in the same category and did excellent without Yungblud. Palace 12 came along and Machine Gun Kelly turned out to be delighted.
At the end of the performance it felt a bit too long. The necessary variety was lacking and “forget me too” didn’t really help either. The blackbear diptych “make up sex” and “my ex’s best friend” had mixed success. While the first one was a bit dull, the sequel surprisingly got us on board. So you see that a catchy chorus is sometimes enough to make a difference. By the way, Baker ended with an ode to his wife Megan Fox. What seemed quite kitschy in the beginning, developed into a sparkling ending. “twin flame” clearly had not stolen its name and took out the last remnants of petrol and pyro. No wonder the public reacted with ecstasy.
Those who had hoped for some older Machine Gun Kelly songs were in for the trouble. Beyond the 2019 coming Hotel Diablo Machine Gun Kelly didn’t go. Not a bad thing, of course, because with no fewer than 31 songs, the audience got their money’s worth. Here and there there were some lesser moments, but in the end they did not outweigh the many good pieces that graced the concert. A little shorter and with more variety would have made the concert even better, but in the end thousands of people returned home happy and satisfied. And that’s what you do it for as an artist.
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born with horns
god save me
concert for aliens
fake love don’t last (with iann dior)
don’t sleep, repeat (with 44Phantom)
more than life
the one in california
roll the windows up
I Think I’m OKAY
why are you here / jawbreaker / sid & Nancy
forget me too
make up sex
my ex’s best friend