As previously stated, I grew up listening to heavy metal music, and still enjoy listening to it today. I’ve been disappointed with the Metallica albums of late, starting with Load, because the music was substantially different from what I had come to expect from the band. Don’t get me wrong: I think every band should be encouraged to experiment and grow as artists, and I’m glad Metallica had the guts to try some new things. Their experiments weren’t very satisfying to me, as a fan, so I didn’t pay much attention to them.
When Metallica released their latest album, Death Magnetic, earlier this year I was cautiously optimistic, and greatly encouraged by initial reports that this album was a return to the style of music that made Metallica famous. I listened to two songs while riding in Rick’s car, and I was immediately impressed. The music and vocals were extremely reminiscent of their earlier works, and the energy of the songs was really impressive. I later listened to the entire album, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike was a little more reserved in his endorsement of Death Magnetic, saying that each song sounded like the band screwing around for three minutes before finally remembering that they were, in fact, Metallica for the last two minutes of each song.
Last night I got to see Metallica play at the Schottenstein Arena on the OSU campus, thanks to my buddy Jay. He had a spare ticket, and graciously offered it to me. I met Jay at the Varsity Club, just up the street from the venue, and enjoyed a few beers before the show. Maybe it was the bar, but I was really surprised to see so many older fans waiting for the show. The average age of the folks in the Varsity Club must have been close to 40. Unsurprisingly, everyone was extremely enthusiastic and really looking forward to the show.
The stage was opened on all four sides in the middle of the arena, and the place was nearly full. A large crowd of fans surrounded the stage in the “floor seats” section (thankfully no seats were there). Metallica took the stage in darkness, and the opening song was accompanied by an extremely impressive laser light show. I wouldn’t have associated Metallica and lasers, but the lights did a really good job of creating an exciting atmosphere, and the crowd went absolutely wild.
Having seen songs from Death Magnetic played live, I can absolutely refute Mike’s assertion that the new songs “warm up” to traditional Metallica style. The new songs were played with enthusiasm, and it was all Metallica, with no hesitation. The band was clearly having a good time, and their good time easily spilled over onto the crowd. They played a fantastic mix of old classics along with their new material, and the play list was extremely well coordinated. They played one song from Death Magnetic (please forgive me: I haven’t committed the new songs to memory yet) that has a rhythm very similar to Creeping Death from Ride the Lightning. As I stood, enjoying the thumping music and the audience screaming enthusiastically around me, I thought to myself “Creeping Death would be the perfect follow-up to this song.” I was a little disappointed when the song ended, and the band took a quick breather, but within moments they were back on stage and lo! the opening riff from Creeping Death ripped through the arena.
It was interesting to watch Metallica play. They were filled with energy, and really interacted with the audience. They’ve grown not only as musicians, but as entertainers: James Hetfield engaged the audience, and really got the fans excited. When he asked how many people were there to see their first Metallica concert, I was stunned to see at least half of the audience raise their hands. Hetfield noted that a young boy was in the front row of the general admission crowd around the stage, and asked how old he was. The kid was 11, and Hetfield thanked the kid and his parents for coming to the show together. As I looked around, I noticed that this was not an anomaly: there were lots of families together at the show. It was really something to see kids rocking out next to their parents, huge grins on everyone’s face as they all sang the lyrics together.
The night included many of my favorite classic Metallica songs, including the full version of Master of Puppets, Leper Messiah, Jump in the Fire and Ride the Lightning. Fan favorites like One, and Wherever I May Roam were well received, and the evening closed with Seek and Destroy, during which several dozen gigantic black beachballs, emblazoned with the Metallica logo, fell from the rafters. It was quite a spectacle to see the balls flying through the air, and the folks in the general admission section scrambling to catch them. It struck me as simultaneously silly and pretty cool that such a thing would occur at a Metallica concert.
As my buddy Jay said at the end of the night, Metallica has realized it’s okay for them to be the band that they are. They still have the energy and passion to produce and perform fantastic music, and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to see them again. Thanks, Jay!