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Live: MACHINE GUN KELLY // O2 Forum Kentish Town, London

“I’ve waited years for shit like this. The O2 Arena, that’s next”, Machine Gun Kelly triumphs at London’s O2 Forum, proving that he is the rockstar the world is finally ready for.

Machine Gun Kelly - O2 Forum London - GIG GOER 2019

2018 wasn’t easy on Machine Gun Kelly, facts. After the feud with Eminem and all the media backlash that followed, Colson took a step back channelling his energy into his side movie projects. However, he did release BINGE EP in the Autumn of that year, but while we were eagerly awaiting news on his fourth studio album, he announced that he scrapped the whole thing. Starting from scratch and delving deeper than ever before, Hotel Diablo arrived in July 2019, cementing his position as one of the greatest lyricists of his generation.

Delivering a soundtrack for all the summers to come, the record marks a great return from an artist who’s unafraid of facing his inner demons, and who simply doesn’t give a shit what people think or say about him. And even if he does, he comes back unfazed and stronger every time. After witnessing MGK bring the world of Hotel Diablo to a live setting, nothing can stop him now from reaching the top.

With queues of people stretching in every direction as far as the eye could see and an insane stage setup, saying that the ‘Hotel Diablo Tour’ is on fire would be a huge understatement. Recreating the album’s artwork and its themes, the flashing image display on massive LED screens truly adds to the visuals, as the words “Come and find yourself” (taken from album intro Sex Drive) welcome us to Hotel Diablo.

From the get-go, the show is an adrenaline-charged rush of punchy beats and sharp lyricism. Opening with Habits, the more melodic parts balance out well with infectious hooks (el Diablo) and trap-influenced, off-beat BINGE material (LOCO & GTS). We are even gifted with Breaking News 2, the track that accompanied the album announcement. Although the song hasn’t been officially released, it does deliver a resounding impact.

Dropping us into a whirlwind of unfiltered emotions and sonic variations, the live format of Hotel Diablo is tantalising, and Machine Gun Kelly’s stage presence is magnetic. Full of bite and swaggering attitude, Hollywood Whore and Floor 13 pack a punch with MGK’s brazen lyrical precision and ambient electronics. Elsewhere in the set, already a live favourite, Candy serves more upbeat vibes, flowing with swaying rhythms and catchy hooks contrasting with dark lyrics, whilst Glass House is a slow-burner that once again brings his pure, unadulterated confessions to the forefront. 5:3666 and Waste Love take things down a notch and set a more reflective tone, gaining momentum with beautiful singalongs from the crowd.

A man of many talents, MGK totally owns the stage. One minute he’s climbing the speakers, next he jumps on the drum kit to perform Mötley Crüe’s song Shout At The Devil. Delivering a stunning mashup of covers, he then says: “This shit is sick. I’ve waited years for shit like this. The O2 Arena, that’s next.” Treating us to his cover of billie eilish’s ocean eyes, with a few lines of Oasis’ Wonderwall dropped in to the mix, and an electrifying guitar solo at the end, there’s not a single thing the guy can’t do. There’s also both a striking confidence and a surprising humbleness about him, he truly appreciates his audience and you can feel that at his live shows. But the credit must also go to his full band who does an amazing job throughout the set. That drummer of his is next level, surely. You should’ve seen him speed up through See My Tears with his eyes covered.

Heading towards the end of the show, it wouldn’t be a Machine Gun Kelly show without the firepower of a track, Rap Devil, which the crowd was impatiently waiting for, judging by the looks of it. And of course, the hottest collab of Summer 2019, I Think I’m OKAY (feat. Yungblud & Travis Barker) makes the cut. Channelling his old school rock influences, the track is yet another bold offering that further showcases MGK’s broad range of musical talents and his ability to float between genres with ease. And what a delight to experience it live, from both his and crowd’s perspective, as he says: “You can’t sing like that and not make me want to play it again.” So he does exactly that.

In his signature fashion, Bad Mother F*cker sees MGK stage dive and climb up the balcony level. Next, he runs to the other side of the venue and jumps off doing a front flip, just to make things a bit crazier. All of this is happening to the old school hit Till I Die. Finishing off on a tender note, 27 creates a stunning moment with images of Mac Miller, Chester Bennington, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse amongst others, appearing on the screens. Having one last smoke, MGK spins Burning Memories and he vanishes behind the giant door of Hotel Diablo.

With a knack for poignant storytelling, direct flow and slick wordplay, there’s no doubt that Machine Gun Kelly has already proven himself a versatile rapper with his previous efforts, but Hotel Diablo elevates him to new heights. Birthed from difficult times, the record is an autobiographical body of work that finds MGK addressing a lot of personal, childhood-related issues for the first time. It is dark, raw and brutally honest, and damn is it real. I guess that’s why people keep coming back to his music. When life throws shit at you, what’s a better way to find comfort and reach catharsis than through music? Pain is better to listen to, true, but when you find a relatable anchor that keeps you alive, that’s when all the magic happens.

With unmatched determination and untamed, irrepressible passion, Machine Gun Kelly has become the voice of the streets, and with his movement EST going from strength to strength, there’s only one reference that seems fitting right now, and it is to his song Golden God and the lyrics: ‘looks like the crown do fit’.

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Photos: Kasia Osowiecka