In 1992, when I was 12 years old, I asked my parents if I could go see the Metallica and Guns ‘n Roses show (which was supposed to be supported by Nirvana) in Houston. They told me, “sure, if you wear a football helmet”. I said, “no problem”. They rescinded the offer.
Fast forward to 2007, when I would experience my first live Metallica set at their mostly unfortunate Bridge School performance.
Last night I was able to see Metallica the way you are supposed to: in a sea of fans in a sold out stadium.
I gotta say, it was a relief to go to a big GA show without dealing with the anxiety filled waiting that I’ve been dealing with for NIN. We walked in just as The Sword was starting their set. I walked onto the floor having no idea that this show was in the round. I’ve never been GA at a show like this, and was at first a little flustered about where I wanted to stand. But, having gone all week thinking that I wouldn’t get anywhere near the stage for this show, I was able to get up closer to The Sword than I did at their Slim’s show earlier this year. I thought their set- even though it was incredibly short- was fantastic. They really made use of the stage, being able to run around and play at any angle. Their sound completely made sense in a stadium (unlike some opening acts)- they were born to play venues like this. And the bonus was that at the end of the set, the manfriend caught a drumstick.
After wandering out for some gross arena grub and beer (a gallon of popcorn, seriously?), the floor quickly filled up when we went back to resume our spot. So we walked around to the back of the venue to watch the Lamb of God set. I’ve never seen Lamb of God before, nor do I know any of their songs, but I am familiar with the infamous Wall of Death. Unfortunately, the stage setup didn’t appear to allow for this organized chaos of a mosh pit, so I didn’t get to observe it from afar like I had planned. They do sure sound reminiscent of Pantera, though.
It is at this point that I begin to wonder how the bands are getting on and off the stage. On cue, a barrier goes up to create a walkway to my left. We line up along the barrier, where I get my little pre show barrier excitement fix mingling with the always amusing security guards and the fans- some of whom had flown from Israel to be there. It was a little bit like waiting for fighters to come out to the ring. Finally, the lights dim, revealing lighters held up by what felt like a million fans reaching way up to the ceiling. It was one of those moments where I felt really lucky to be exactly where I was, feeding off of what these guys must feel like coming out to play on such a prestigious stage. Kirk Hammett comes running out first, his guitar already strapped on. Next was Robert Trujillo, followed by Lars, and bringing up the rear, James Hetfield (or as the Israelis referred to him, ‘King James’).
As soon as they are through, the barriers came down and we ended up at first in the middle of a very drunken mosh pit, but then somehow ended up second row in front of a mic stand. It was truly incredible. The band was in the midst of the first two tracks off of the recent Death Magnetic, which sound way better live compared to the weird production issues surrounding the record. Not only that, but you wouldn’t know these were new songs judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm. Pretty much every single person- old and feeble and way too drunk to young and mohawked is wide eyed with excitement. “Look, that’s Kirk Hammett 5 feet away from me!!!”. Even the security guys were jumping up and down with excitement.
Oddly enough, the only way out of the circular barrier was right next to us, where the security would just pull the barrier apart to let people in and out. Mind you, they had to go through a mosh pit to get there. So the photographers and their equipment, out and through the mosh pit. Mom and Dad Hetfield, band kids, aunts, uncles- they seemed to all be there- through the mosh pit and into the barrier. It was pretty wild. Even though people were being shuttled in and out, it wasn’t too terribly disruptive for us, and everyone seemed to be able to keep their spot. But, if I were a VIP or photographer, I would have probably thrown a fit for putting me in the line of fire.
The guys worked the stage, and really worked the crowd. They make eye contact, point at people, gesture to get you to make some noise. Some people near us had a banner saying they had come from South America, I think, and they got a lot of love. The stage set up was really interesting- there were metal coffins up by the lights that moved down occasionally. Lars’ drum set was rotated every few songs so that he got face time with everyone. There were some nice pyrotechnics that really freaked out the security guy in front of us. It was good to feel the heat- that’s rare in this post-Great White era. I was curious with all of the running around how this sort of set up works technically for the instruments- they didn’t appear to have effects pedals anywhere or anything like that. But I don’t pretend to know how any of that stuff works anyways…
‘One’, ‘Sad But True’, and ‘Master of Puppets’ were definitely my highlights. I hadn’t even listened to those songs in a long time, but it was- as they say- like riding a bike. After the main set- where I knew the band couldn’t leave the stage for the encore- they merely walked off to the side by us and then came back up to finish the show with a bang. It’s always great to watch a band play the last few songs on the last stop of a tour- they lay it all out there. Trujillo spun the bass around for what seemed like minutes, and I was just sure he was going to fall over with dizzyness. Black Metallica beach balls dropped from the ceiling, bouncing all over the stage and on the guys as they were trying to play their instruments. And then I saw some paper plates come out on the side of the stage. At the end of ‘Seek and Destroy’, all hell broke loose as Lars got pummeled by silly string and shaving cream for his birthday (or for just being kinda douchy in general, who knows). It was pretty funny.
Then I got yanked to the side as the barrier was put back up. We watched them all run off, one by one, giving us high fives on their way out.
We hung around trying to get picks and/or setlists, when finally, right before we were pushed off the floor by security, a roadie threw a ton of picks in the air. I got tackled and had my hair pulled, but between the manfriend and myself, we successfully obtained three different totally cool picks.
You know, Metallica has had issues with authenticity and relevancy over the years. They’ve fallen on and off my ipod many times. I have a personal vendetta against Lars Ulrich as a metal icon. But no one can deny that every American must see Metallica live at least once. It’s fun.
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Sad But True
All Nightmare Long
The Day That Never Comes
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Metal Militia (teaser) / Last Caress (by the Misfits)
Seek and Destroy
MF Metallica Montage
Metallica performance: 9.25/10
Lamb of God performance: 8/10
The Sword performance: 8.75/10
venue (Oracle Arena): 8.25/10
value ($95.95/ticket): 8/10