Saturday, July 14, 2007

Metallica Live

On the day after their performance as part of the Live Earth event at Wembley Stadium, Metallica returned to put on a soirée of their own at the same massive venue.

“It’s a little different today. I feel a different energy,” the singer and guitarist James Hetfield told the 65,000 fans, who roared their approval and shook horn-shaped fists above their heads as if cracking a whip in unison. Platitudes about saving the planet were certainly not on the menu.

This outing has been dubbed the “Sick of the Studio” tour, because it has afforded Metallica a break from the lengthy process of writing and recording their next album, tentatively scheduled for release next year. But it seemed that the group were also sick of their last album, St Anger, which, in America, remains the lowest-selling they have yet released. In a show lasting well over two hours the Californian quartet did not include a single track from it.

Instead, the original monsters of rock went back to the tried and tested with a holding operation of exemplary focus and intensity, but little in the way of innovation or invention.

Their music has traditionally explored extremes of speed, density and volume, with lyrics dwelling on the twin themes of death and destruction. All bases were covered with the opening salvo of Creeping Death, a song about the systematic killing of firstborn sons.

Hetfield who, with his long, greying beard, looked rather like an Egyptian Pharaoh, was ably assisted by the crowd as he barked out the injunction to Die by My Hand. Lars Ulrich hammered away at his drums, tongue lolling, face and hair plastered in sweat like a marathon runner close to the end of his tether, as they rolled straight into For Whom the Bell Tolls.

There was no drum solo, but the orc-like Robert Trujillo unleashed a rumbling bass guitar “doodle” of superhuman dexterity, while the guitarist Kirk Hammett supplied moments of similarly heroic endeavour throughout, albeit with a more mercurial touch.

There were occasional oases of calm during numbers such as Unforgiven and Nothing Else Matters when, the ban on smoking notwithstanding, a mass of twinkling lighters were raised aloft by the crowd.

But as darkness fell, a succession of pyrotechnic explosions rent the air and the stage was turned into a raging battlefield of sound and light for One and Enter Sandman, a dramatic close to a committed and rigorously executed rifle through the band’s back pages.



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