Film Editor James Evenden reviews Machine Gun Kelly’s live show at the Birmingham Utilita Arena on the 4th October, describing it as ‘a true musical spectacle’
On a drizzly Tuesday night at the Utillita Arena Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) began his set by hanging from a bright pink helicopter. Following the recent release of his second major pop-punk project Mainstream Sellout, MGK’s tour feels like him taking a victory lap on his own terms. Filled with a combination of songs from his major albums including Tickets to My Downfall and Hotel Diablo, MGK has proved that he knows how to put on an entertaining show. Even if the songs do not flow into each other as well as they could have, Machine Gun Kelly’s Mainstream Sellout Tour is still a lot of fun.
Opening with the punchy ‘Born with Horns’, Machine Gun Kelly set a mostly full arena alight. Slightly grittier than some of the more upbeat cuts from his previous album, ‘Born With Horns’ sets the stage for a more full-throttle performance that never slows down. He followed that up with the pop-sounding ‘God Save Me’, a track that will sound more familiar to MGK’s Tickets to My Downfall fans. This combination of tracks thoroughly energised the crowd, giving them both sides of MGK’s current style, infusing both rock and more familiar pop-punk sounds.
MGK complements these songs with an excellent band, all of whom he introduced his audience to and gave them their own small moment to shine. Each got their own small solo, which did a good job at making the performers feel like a more cohesive outfit, rather than just MGK up there on his own. The latest addition to the band, British guitarist Sophie Lloyd, played with notable confidence. It felt like she had been playing with MGK for years. A special shoutout also needs to go to MGK’s drummer, Rook. He got the longest solo, and his clear skill is a true musical spectacle.
The most noticeable thing about MGK’s setlist is just how long it is, and this did cause the set to drag towards the end. Clocking in at twenty-eight tracks, it would be impossible for the energy to be maintained throughout the show. For the most part, MGK managed to sustain a fun atmosphere for the crowd but lacked enough crowd engagement to keep the tone as fun as the songs he was playing. He seems more concerned with his own self-image throughout, rather than getting to know the audience.
MGK wants us to know that he knows what we think of him, and whilst a few sly references to this would be fine, MGK’s references to the internet via a giant statue with a screen on its face did get annoying quite quickly. The setlist did not feel like it left much room to slow down, and this is what most MGK fans expect. But, when MGK paused in between songs, it did interrupt the pacing enough times to become noticeable.
Thankfully, this never becomes too much of an issue considering how fun MGK’s setlist was. He had something for everybody familiar with his work, from most of his main projects. What’s impressive is how MGK can switch from pop-punk to rap without missing a beat, and have it feel natural to the set. The songs could have flowed a bit better, the transition from a rap song like ‘Floor 13’ to the rock-infused punk track ‘Papercuts’ was jarring for the first few seconds. But, MGK’s sheer commitment carried the audience through the rough patches.
When MGK wanted to slow down the show, the audience was happy to follow. The highlight of the show was his acoustic mashup of ‘love race’, ‘why are you here’, ‘jawbreaker’ and ‘sid & nancy’. The mashup is not as clean as it could have been, but this summaries MGK’s set, something that does not follow the traditional rules of a show, but still manages to work, nonetheless.
Overall, MGK’s Mainstream Sellout show felt like a show made for his fans. It had its flaws and did grate on my nerves at a point, but I honestly did not care. A sense of gratitude from MGK was clear throughout, and it felt like he was in a safe place, where he was simply himself, not caring if you like that or not. Towards the end of the show, I was wanting it to wrap up, but when it did I was left hoping he would return for just one more head-banging track.
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