Concert Reviews

Machine Gun Kelly, the Justin Bieber of the Rock ‘n’ Rap World

By Eric Gruneisen

Denver! You never know what the weather will be like in this city.  Saturday, June 22, was one of those days where most people stayed indoors or in bed. The city saw rain all day while snow dumped up to two feet on the Colorado mountains. But what’s a little weather when Machine Gun Kelly is in town?


Machine Gun Kelly Performs at The Fillmore Denver 6/22/19
The line for MGK at the Fillmore, Denver, 6/22/19.

The gloomy conditions didn’t stop Machine Gun Kelly fans from showing their dedication. Some fans lined up as early as 1 a.m. to ensure they had front row seats.

Machine Gun Kelly has been around for over a decade, but his name is now becoming more recognizable due to his latest appearance in Motley Crue’s Netflix movie, The Dirt. MGK plays the role of Tommy Lee, the drummer. Although the movie put him on the radar of an older generation of 80’s metal fans, those fans weren’t the least bit interested in his live music this June. Only the younger music fans seemed to come out for this show.  

The doors opened at 7 p.m., but the fans were sluggish and silent, their energy drawn out by the cold. Even when the venue filled half way, it felt like an insurance seminar rather than a concert. Honestly, high school assembly’s have

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at The Fillmore Denver 6/22/19
MGK fans at the Fillmore, Denver, 6/22/19.

been known to be more rowdy than this crowd was.  Maybe it was the rain and cold that mellowed them out, or maybe it was because it’s always 420 in Colorado, but it was strange.  

The show opening DJ finally put a little life in the crowd, and that’s when I realized no music had been playing. Was the lack of hype the real reason that the energy level was so low beforehand? This failure was one of a few ball-drops by the lighting and sound department. 

The light during the initial performance a low blue, making it difficult to see the stage. When the lighting tech finally caught up with the show, it went completely black for a few moments before some show-worthy lighting came on. The production crew kept on point for the remainder of the concert.

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at The Fillmore Denver 6/22/19
Machine Gun Kelly performs at the Fillmore, Denver, 6/22/19.

With the tone now set, the crowd was revived, and the anticipation level rose as it grew closer to the headliner’s show time. His band EST19xx sat on risers in the back, leaving plenty of room at the front of the stage to spotlight MGK with an impressive lighting display. The house lights dimmed, and the show began.

MGK entered on the center of lifted portion of the stage, seeming larger then life.  For the first 15 to 20 minutes, there was actually a lot to see and take in — the great lighting display, an energized band, and a killer little side show from the EST19xx drummer.

However, as the show progressed, MGK’s performance began to feel very scripted and overly choreographed. You could almost see him concentrate beforehand on his next move.

Although  his choreographed moves made him seem like an amateur

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at The Fillmore Denver 6/22/19
Machine Gun Kelly performs at the Fillmore, Denver, 6/22/19.

performer, MGK does have a million dollar smile that he used to his advantage as well as some sex appeal. In fact, one of the female fans brought a sign that read, “Let Me Suck Your Machine Gun Kelly!  PLEASE,”  which I found a little tasteless.  

He did have two highlights during the performance. First he was joined by YoungBlood on stage for two songs.

The second notable moment served as a quick reminder that he played Tommy Lee in The Dirt. Kelly took a seat on the throne at the drum set as he and the band played the opening riffs of “Shout at the Devil.”  If you closed your eyes, you would have thought Motley was in the house. This demonstration was impressive especially for the few older members of the crowd.

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at The Fillmore Denver 6/22/19
Machine Gun Kelly observes a fan’s sign at the Fillmore, Denver, 6/22/19.

Looking back, the performance hit hard at first but fell flat.  In the end, I felt is was more comparable to a Justin Bieber production than to a hardcore rap and rock show.  

Is MGK on his way to the top of the entertainment world? Absolutely not!  We have seen his peak.  He doesn’t have the stage presence needed to go to the next level, and he needs the lighting and showmanship of fellow performers to keep fans’ attention throughout the show. Moreover, having only a younger fan base will also limit his reach and thus capacity for fame. 

Rappers such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube need nothing more than a microphone, spotlight, and stage.  Kelly needs the help of a production crew. With these limitations, MGK has seen the peak of his career and will fade from the spotlight in a few years. In the end, he’s just the Justin Bieber of the rock and rap era.  

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