Saturday, July 24, 2010

Metallica, 28 SEP 2009

World Magnetic Tour, North American leg, part 2. San Antonio, TX.

This was my 4th Metallica concert. Last year I saw them in Houston, TX for part 1 of their North American leg of their World Magnetic tour. Prior to that I saw them on back to back nights on the Gold Coast (“Big Day Out” in front of ~50,000 fans) and in Brisbane, Australia, respectively, whilst on their “Madly in Anger with the World” tour.

As I experienced at their Brisbane gig, I again had general admission, standing room only, floor tickets for this gig so preparation and timing was paramount in order to get that spot in front of the stage. But unlike the Brisbane gig, the opportunity for a “front row” spot was increased with Metallica's stage set in the middle of the arena that offers them a 360 degree view of the fans and for the fans a good opportunity to see the band in full flight. So I just had to be there early enough to pick up tickets and then park my arse in line before the doors opened early for us Metallica fan club members. Naturally what you wear is of great importance. Shall I don the customary black t-shirt from another concert for another band or shall I choose an earlier Metallica concert t-shirt (black, of course)? So you can see the dilemma I was confronted with, but in the end I donned another Metallica concert t-shirt from my growing collection of black metal T's. Next I had to make sure I had plenty of sustenance in preparation for the nights gig. This usually presents itself in the form of a greasy hamburger and chips (fries) and a few refreshing, frosty beverages (i.e. a few pints). To aid me in this pre-concert ritual was once again, the one and only "The Flying Saucer". With a belly full of food and a few heart starters under my belt it was then on to the show...

My pre-concert preparation was rewarded with a spot near one of the stage barriers and only about one person deep. My metal brothers in arms for this gig (Canadia and Irish) could now see why I was adamant we must get there early enough for the spots we ended up having.

Behind me you can see Lars' drum kit covered up. Don't mind the stage in front of me, that was Lamb Of Gods drum kit platform which was subsequently removed before Metallica.
For Canadia and Irish their Metallica concert cherry was soon to be popped, and popped in a big way. By the way, a big thanks to the Irishman for “volunteering” to drive to this gig. Well mate, it was your turn to drive anyway. To get us amped up for the main act, not that we or the crowd needed it, was not only a few more of the now very over priced concert frosty beverages but also Gojira, a French death metal quartet and Lamb of God, a member of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (NWOAHM). Both opening acts put on solid performances and I would particularly like to see Gojira be put on the bill for a future Mayhem Festival. In my opinion, they certainly have it over some of the acts who appeared at this years San Antonio Mayhem Festival. With the opening acts finished it was then time to cue Metallica's road crew to go into action. A feature of this set up was the four road crew members who perched themselves up above the stage for the entirety of the gig in order to operate the four suspended silver coffins with lights that would at times encroach upon the stage only then to be hoisted back to their original positions.

The stage is set, the sound check is all good (which by the way I'm sure is just a teaser for the crowd to give us a very brief taste of things to come), beer cup is full and the arena is at capacity (all 17,000-20,000 of us!). The lights dim to the sound of Ennio Morricone's “The Ecstasy of Gold” which to any Metallica fan having experienced a live gig before, signifies the imminent arrival of the band on stage. Surprisingly though this was the first time it was played on their World Magnetic tour but I'm stoked they chose this night to play it as it certainly gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Such a great way to create a sense of anticipation. The lights remain dimmed as the sound of a beating heart thumps its way through the speakers as Lars, Kirk, Rob and after saying a few pre-show words to his son in the sound mixing area, James make their way onto the stage area. The beating heart is the precursor to Death Magnetic's “That Was Just Your Life” and as the opening bars of the studio album version of this track continue to ring through the speakers you hear the awesomeness that is live metal music kick in as the lads take the reins of their art. This explosive opening number is further enhanced to the well choreographed laser light show illuminating the darkened stadium. The laser show is also the backdrop to their second song of the night, Death Magnetic's “The End of the Line” which I see as being a future crowd favourite especially seeing and hearing the crowd's fits of aggression during the repeated lyrical passage of “...the slave becomes the master...”.

Part of the laser light show for the opening two numbers.
With the laser show over we head back into Metallica's earlier days to the tune of Ride The Lightning's “Creeping Death”, a favourite of mine when played live especially when James likes to let the crowd know one of Kirk's upcoming guitar solos with the words “You ought to know by now motherfuckers!” As we exit out the other side of Kirk's solo we dive deep into the heavy bass riffs of Rob with Lars belting it out on his duel floor toms all in synchronisation with the crowds backing chants of “die, die, die,die, motherfucker die!” From their energy filled 3rd song of the night James announces that “...this next song is one we have not performed in a long time.” It must have been so long that I honestly did not recognise it. At first I thought it may have been a “Load” or “Re-load” number, two albums most Metallica fans would openly admit are not some of their best work but after checking the nights set list I didn't even possess this song in my music collection (all 417 Metallica studio album, live album and cover tracks)! Their 4th song of the night, “I Disappear” hails from the Mission Impossible II soundtrack. No fucking wonder I didn't have this song, the movie sucks arse and in all honesty Tom (Cruise) should of disappeared after making such a “movie”! It was the first time this song had been played on their current World tour.

In its current configuration the stage is set-up with microphones dotting the perimeter and Lars' kit sitting smack bang in the middle of it all. The conclusion of “I Disappear” allowed the turntable that Lars' kit sat on to make its first one quarter turn of the night. I think this concept is a great idea given the central stage location as it gives the fans a full 360 degree view of Lars in his element and also gain an appreciation of how hard this little Dane works when at the “office”. As we headed into the next quarter of the set you could be forgiven if you thought the local San Antonio US Air Force and Army bases were conducting training exercises as the sound of helicopters, explosions and gun fire rang out from the speakers. By now you should know that ...And Justice For All's, “One” is soon to follow and the crowd erupts as Kirk plays the opening notes. This song is truly a crowd favourite. The intensity of the lyrics to “One” are duly complemented with balls of flame bursting from under the stage just as James starts the passage “...landmine has taken my sight...”. Needless to say it gets quite “warm” standing where we were as these hellish flashes spew forth from the apparent bowels of the Earth. We again revisit another Death Magnetic double feature, firstly with “Broken, Beat & Scared”, a song very close to the hearts of the band as it represents a portal into their lives. This is reflective on how James often introduces this song with the phrase “What don't kill ya, make ya more strong!” BBS is followed by “Cyanide”, a very dark song with lyrics such as “Suicide, I've already died. You're just the funeral I've been waiting for...”. Classic Metallica song writing in my opinion and as a side note, another classic piece of song writing is their lyric, “My lifestyle determines my death style.” Just thought I'd throw that one in there. In keeping with this section of the set list being dominated with heavy guitar riffs and dark lyrical content we are pumped to hear another one of Metallica's classics, “Sad But True” which is off their “Black” or self titled album. To take us away from the heavy guitar riff we are first entertained by a bass solo from Rob followed by a very brief interlude in order to set up a fixed acoustic guitar stand for James to lead off with another “Black” album number, “The Unforgiven”. The tempo quickly changes again from “The Unforgiven” into Death Magnetic's “All Nightmare Long”. After a somewhat benign intro, “All Nightmare Long” you could say re-visits Metallica's early thrash metal beginnings and I particularly like James' audible “one, two” cue in for the other band members. It's as if he is also signaling to the crowd to be prepared for some good 'ol fashioned thrash metal. Longevity is always a good indication of a bands success and Metallica is certainly no exception, 25 years and still counting! However, they might not be able to sustain the prolonged periods of thrash/speed metal as once before without having that extra breather or so. Hence cue in another Kirk solo plus a 2nd quarter turn of Lars' kit which by this time is facing us directly. Baby baby chips and gravy!

We kick of this next period with another Death Magnetic number, “The Day That Never Comes”. Remember folks Death Magnetic is their latest album and this is the World Magnetic tour so you'd expect a few tracks off this album to be played. But following this the crowd erupts once more to the tune of “Master Of Puppets” from the same titled album. This song brings the house down as the crowd helps James sing certain lines like “...chop your breakfast on a mirror...”. For as long as I've heard this song played live, this line (pun intended) along with a few other lines (another pun intended) of “Puppets” are not sung by James as he prefers the crowd to help themselves (wow pun city :P) and sing for him. I don't know the exact reason why James rarely sings this lyrical content of “Puppets”? Perhaps it helps him remain clean and clear unlike the earlier days of Metallica when they were living it up both on and off the stage. In any case, the crowd does not mind filling in for James for this song. After “Puppets” we then move back to the very beginning as Kill 'Em All's “Battery” is thrashed out to the crowd and to my extreme delight. A fucking awesome song that has only got better with time. We are again entertained with another Kirk solo but this time I think it is an unplanned solo as I see Lars' snare drum being replaced. He's probably bashed the shit out of the previous one which would not surprise me one bit. Being down at the ear bleed level and within spitting distance of the band you get to witness a lot of up close and personal happenings during the show. As we are approaching the end we are still yet to hear a couple more crowd favourites. Our ears are then stimulated with an orgasmic “Black” album double, “Nothing Else Matters” straight into “Enter Sandman”. I must confess that the lyrics to “Nothing Else Matters” did not truly click with me until I heard this song played in Houston, TX last year. As for the reason, well that's none of your fucken' business. I am certain that if you were to ask someone if they could name a Metallica song then “Enter Sandman” would be the answer ~99% of the time. This song is a classic, enough said!!

Well my friends this then brings us to the end of the set list...for now. The band make their way down for a quick breather, Lars' kit is turned another quarter completing a 270 degree rotation, and James is now back on stage and saying to the crowd “Oh yeah?” followed by the crowd repeating him in parrot like fashion. James gives us another dose of “Oh yeah?” and we reciprocate once again. I know we are building up to something big but at this stage it is is anyone's guess. The rest of the band are now back on stage much to the crowds deafening roar and then all of a sudden we hear the musical intro to ...And Justice For All's “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity” and I'm thinking "fucken' oath! Bring this shit on!" But they do not continue with the remainder of the song. Instead they produce one of their covers, Queen's “Stone Cold Crazy”. Following this cover the show concludes with a Kill 'Em All tag team of “Phantom Lord” and last but definitely not least, “Seek and Destroy”. “Seek and Destroy” has been their closing song for most of this World tour and it is more the memorable by James requesting the arena lights be turned on so he can see the crowd. It really isn't until then that we too can fully gauge the intensity, energy and enormity of this concert as exemplified by the sea of metal heads all up out of their sets screaming their fucking heads off. Aside from the band, of course, seeing this also caps the experience that is a Metallica concert. Fucking awesome!!

Just a sprinkling of some of the 17,000-20,000 screaming Metallica fans!
As James leads off into “Seek and Destroy”, again asking for crowd participation, black Death Magnetic beach balls fall from the stadium's ceiling into the crowd and onto the stage. Well it is now like feeding time at the zoo as everyone is competing for a piece of these concert souvenirs. Following the show we see the now usual tossing of guitar picks into the crowd which again ignites a feeding-like frenzy from the fans who try to get their hands on a physical memento of the night. For me I am not one of these people scrambling around trying to capture some physicality of the show as if my life depended on it. I still have a guitar pick from Metallica's Brisbane show back in 2004 and besides, my memento not only is my ticket, ringing ears, a lack of sleep and a sore throat for the next few days but the memory (of this show) remains within my mental CV.

James, again
Lars & Kirk
Thank you San Antonio. No, thank you James.
As you look at this pic we were in front of the top left hand portion of the stage.

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