Headliner: Parkway Drive
Supports: Killswitch Engage + Thy Art Is Murder
Venue: Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Date: Friday November 2nd, 2018
Review: Tomina Vincent
Photos: Dylan Martin
Tonight, Parkway Drive are seemingly overtaking the whole of Melbourne City. A black cloud of fans drags across the streets, pulling into a bottleneck towards Margaret Court Arena. Parkway Drive have earned this. In the span of 15 years, this monolithic unit has produced some iconic tracks and chipped away at world domination with patience, professionalism and remarkable endurance. Known as the nicest guys in heavy music, Parkway have paid their dues and outperformed almost every other act in Australia, earning worldwide reputation for being an outstanding live band with a consistently creative and superb live production. The kings are about to show us why they took the crown, and I let myself be dragged through the gates by the immense crowd, to what turned out to be simply the best concert I have ever attended. And that is not an exaggeration. Here’s why.
First up, we are treated to a great appetizer. Thy Art is Murder take no prisoners tonight. More than worthy openers, they drag an ominous vibe into the room and their relaxed yet powerful performance is a pleasure to witness. There’s something very inspiring about having this band featured on such a big show. Thy Art have been around for a long time, and it feels like it was only recently that they came into heavy music fans’ peripheral vision, only to blow them away, and I, like many others, wondered where the hell they had been hiding. They hadn’t of course - the band has been steadily building a reputation and sound that has now reached its true peak and you can feel them exuding the cool confidence of a band so utterly versed in the art of live performance, that they need nothing behind them to deliver a marvelous show. At song 3, a circle pit engulfed almost the entirety of the Margaret Court Arena. Most of the crowd knew the set by heart and every time singer CJ McMahon pulled the microphone away from himself, the audience took over in a thundering response that shook the floor in a bass-heavy thud you could feel in the pit of your stomach. A poignant moment in their set was the song dedication to Asia Bibi, who was facing a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan which was later overturned. The dedication was met by roaring applause arena-wide.
Killswich Engage are up next and albeit seeming a little tired, they deliver a great set. Hate by Design is dedicated to American president Donald Trump with the band declaring they don’t stand by him, which the crowd approves of loudly. It’s a solid show of old and new material, with a few crowd-pleasers and great energy.
The venue is buzzing with excitement and people are gathering in groups at the bars and food stands, excitedly discussing what they think the set will include and what they want to hear. Around 10:30pm, It’s time for the headliners and you know how it is: you see some photos, an Instagram post here and there and you get a bit of an idea of what you might expect. Except in this instance, not a single body in the room was prepared for what unfolded before us. Parkway Drive have developed this show with one thing in mind - grandeur. From the magnificent and clever lighting design, to the perfectly choreographed movements of band, pyrotechnics and lights, this show is a spectacle like nothing you’ve seen on local stages, or even worldwide. The production is immense, while remaining tasteful and focused on the flow of the set as a whole. The band open with Wishing Wells, power through some favourites including Vice Grip, and launch the largest circle pit imaginable with Karma, engaging the entire GA floor. There are fire jets and other various pyrotechnics going off throughout and while I’m seated up high at the back of the venue, I can feel the heat way back here. It feels like an hour long set passes by in mere minutes. What’s happening on stage is meticulously designed to the millisecond and to watch it all come together is mesmerising. There is a string section feature, moving platforms, rotating drum kit frames, flames lining the front of stage and drawing lines behind the band - anything and everything one can possibly want, but not expect, and that is the show’s biggest asset. There is a myth in the music world, that raw is better, that the music is enough and bells and whistles are for those who don’t do it well. But when you bring the gong instead, and you hit it time and time again while upside down with a square of live fire around you? Well, that’s something else entirely, something much louder than bells and whistles. This show is an experience, not just a concert. Parkway Drive have truly arrived.
Finishing with their most elaborate flame display, the band unleash Crushed, thank us once again for being there and for supporting them through 15 years of gruelling work, and leave the stage. The inevitable encore closes the show with Bottom Feeder and fireworks, and as the last guitar chords ring through the venue, a giant curtain drops to reveal the cover of the bands latest work Reverence.
I’m not alone in exiting Margaret Court Arena in a sort of a daze. Of course the show was overwhelmingly impressive, but more importantly, stunningly beautiful both visually and in its meaning. Parkway Drive emit an energy that is genuine and infectious, and their sincerity and humility are what gives them the tools to draw an underline of greatness under the Parkway name and solidify their status in everyone’s minds as one of the greatest heavy bands to ever emerge out of Australia. This has been no easy ride for the band, and to see them arrive here, with such an enormous show behind them and a nearly sold out event, smiling constantly and expressing their thanks glowing with disbelief - that is as real as you can get. Parkway Drive gave us their all, and off we went, glowing with disbelief ourselves.
View the full photo gallery below: