Metallica. One word, many thoughts. One of the original “big four” thrash metal bands (along with Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth), Metallica has sustained a career that stretches back over 37 years. They still tour with some frequency, and they have a RABID fan base. I remember seeing a movie on Metallica years ago where they were accused of being sell-outs, and the response to that question from Kirk Hemmett (lead guitarist) was, yeah, we’re sellouts, we sell out every venue we hit. Take that, critics!
The band has never shifted from their aggressive, hard driving metal sound. In fact, when you see them live, and if you aren’t a huge fan, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference of one song to the next. But their fans know each song as soon as the first note is struck. And once they bust into song, there is a ton of interaction between the band and their fans.
I have seen Metallica before, but only in a stadium setting, and this show was at the smaller Wells Fargo Center (it “only” holds about 18,000 or so). Good seats? Yeah, for an arena, but nothing compared to what I usually snag at the clubs. You’re right, I don’t usually get ANY seat at a club as it’s standing room only, but I’m close to the stage and able to see facial expressions and the whatnot that occurs during a show. You can tell from the pictures that this was a different environment.
The last time I saw Metallica they had two openers, one of them Avenged Sevenfold. AS is one of the biggest of the “new” metal acts, and they rocked hard. I was expecting something similar here, but was shocked to find that there was no opening act. Instead, they put out some ass-clown to try and huckster the crowd through about an hour of pre-Metallica hype. It was the most bizarre rock show experience. Seriously, they pulled fans from the crowd and had them compete in Metallica trivia contests. One dude in the crowd threw a beer onto the stage, and while that is supremely uncool, it was indicative of the frustration that all shared. C’mon, already, play some music!
You can see from the setlist (generously put together by the cool folks at setlist.fm) that Metallica played a number of their “hits,” songs such as For Whom The Bell Tolls, Master of Puppets and Enter Sandman. They roared through an 18 song set that had the crowd fired up and wanting more. And the distribution across the band’s albums was pretty good – nothing from Load, but plenty of other albums were represented. Check it out:
As with any major arena act, a Metallica show isn’t just about the music. There is the obligatory James Hetfield call-out to the Metallica “family” (um, based on the crowd around us, maybe not the ones you want around your Thanksgiving table), blasts of fire from the set, four drums set up for each member to bang on, and a first for me, a bunch of lighted drones that circled the stage. There were video boards that moved up and down and showed all kinds of cool and revolting things. And the band had a stage-in-the-round set-up that allowed each member to move around and interact with the crowd from every angle – even Lars Ullrich’s drum set rotated. Couple all of that with lots (and lots) of beer, a hyped-up crowd, and heavy metal thrash and you have all the makings of a compelling live show.
Hey, a word about Lars, ok? That guy must burn about 15,000 calories during a show. He gets a damn workout! And is he the human metronome or what? I oftentimes listen to the drummers, and Lars didn’t miss a beat all night. He is the real deal. The other guys are skilled, too. Kirk, who comes across as a bit of a fancy prick in movies about the band, can really play the lead guitar. Hetfield seems like a good guy, and truly enjoys being the lead man and trying to bridge the sizeable gap between the band and its fans.
What gap you say? Well, the band is filthy rich, with lead singer James Hetfield having a net worth estimated at $300 million, and the other original band members also worth hundreds of millions. I don’t think the rest of us combined in the arena met that net worth. I don’t really care – Metallica has earned it and it’s good to see musicians get rewarded – but how do you stay in contact with the everyman (including me, the most salt-of-the-earth person in the crowd) that is your bread and butter fan? Hard to do, yet they pull it off night after night.
Let’s not forget that this band also has a special place in the heart of all Hokies fans. If you ever get to Blacksburg and see the Good Guys come out of the locker room, they do it to Enter Sandman. It’s one of the best traditions in a tradition-laden national college football scene, and it sets the tone for the visiting team: uh oh, this ain’t going to be easy. Take a look and envy those who went to VT:
Metallica spends some dough on their website – it’s worth a look, here’s the link
and they also have some pretty cool videos. I wasn’t stupid enough to film any of their act and post it on YouTube after having Taylor Swift’s copyright goons pounce on me, but I’ll link you to the official stuff so that you can see what the band wants you to see.
So what was the overall experience? Well, the crowd loved it, and went home satisfied. One dude threw a $20 beer on stage and probably spent the night in jail, thus rendering his experience a bit less satisfying than it was for the rest of us. And the BRP crew thought it was good, but that an opening act from the rich boys on stage would have been a nice add to the show. Still, it’s hard to complain about a band that knows exactly what its fan base wants and comes out, night after night, and plays a compelling set that is well-rehearsed and that ROARS. Rock was made for this kind of thing: blasting music, loud as hell, pyrotechnics and other theatrics, and a band that delivers. Metallica. One word, many thoughts.
I’m back soon with a bunch of other cool stuff. Keep checking and enjoy the ride. In the meantime, go find something from a few decades ago, put it on the hi-fi, and turn it up. Loud rock, like BRP, is almost heaven. Keep grinding.
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My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.