Metallica – [Live]

Wednesday, 06 January 2010

There’s something pretty special about seeing a band just as they approach their peak. You know, at a time before they become too refined and still have a little roughness. For Metallica, that time was when I saw them in 1986 on tour with Ozzy Osbourne, supporting the insanely good Master of Puppets album. It was during that period immediately before Cliff Burton, the band’s bassist, was killed in a tour bus accident while on the European leg of their tour. It was to be just one of many more pivotal points to come in their long history. The latest chapter came to life on December 12th in San Jose, the final U.S. show of their World Magnetic tour.

Arriving at the venue with a healthy dose of cynicism, I was prepared to make an early exit. I had heard about lasers during the opening of the show, some sort of Coldplay-esque beach ball release and also knew the band took home a Grammy for “Best Recording Package.” Really? Do I need anything other than crinkled and torn brown paper wrapping my new Metallica CD? Maybe I was suffering from a lingering case of St. Anger as a result of their previous album. I had proclaimed the band to be in a bona-fide slump after my first few listens of their latest release, Death Magnetic, although it has definitely grown on me since. But, I was still skeptical.

Playing in-the-round to a sold-out crowd at the HP Pavilion “Shark Tank,” it was clear that this was as good as any hometown show for the Bay Area metal icons. The familiar quartet of James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo seem to have a genuine chemistry and intensity and it was interesting to watch their pre-show rituals before they hit the stage. After watching Some Kind of Monster, I was prepared to see a fractured and beaten group of guys who were just going through the motions and performing as if it were simply an obligation.

Metallica’s set opened with two tracks from Death Magnetic, “That Was Just Your Life” and “The End of the Line,” and any of my lingering skepticism faded quickly into the darkness. Hetfield was delivering his best snarling and growling while Hammet made serious guitar skills and musicianship look effortless. Trujillo’s intensity, wide stance, low-slung style and furious rhythms were a perfect match for the band. I was also glad to hear that his bass was brought more forward in the mix as compared to tours from previous years. After meeting Trujillo at a Devo show, of all places, this was the first time I had ever seen him perform live and I was thoroughly impressed. As for Ulrich, he kept up his goofy and playful persona and was just plain fun to watch behind his orange-sparkled drum kit.

The show was packed with the best tracks from DM including “Cyanide” and “My Apocalypse” as well as vintage classics “Master of Puppets,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Fade to Black,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Seek & Destroy,” “Motorbreath” and “One.” The remainder of the 18-song set was filled-out with familiar songs from the black album including “Sad But True,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.” Sadly, there was no “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Blackened” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” But, on the positive side, there was also no material from the Load, Reload or St. Anger era from 1996 to 2003. We’ll call it even.

It’s nice to see the Bay Area rockers succeed at what they do best and absolutely crush a live show after over 25 years, 100 million albums sold worldwide and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. In my mind, Metallica is exactly where they need to be and I’m looking forward to seeing them continue to unleash their fury for a few more decades. Maybe their peak is still to come.


Additional Resources:
Metallica – Death Magnetic album review.

Comments are closed.