BackHistory: Part Seven

2011 was a 'take it easy' year on the initially projected calendar. Yes, true, it was Metallica's 30th Anniversary, but still, not much planned/no new studio album/no long tours, etc... yeah right!

First the band brought the Big 4 to Indio, CA (the Coachella site) in April for the first Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax show on US soil. They then found themselves agreeing to collaborate with one of the legendary Godfather's of punk and alternative music, Lou Reed (who had pushed for such a thing since the Hall of Fame gig in '09) on an album project based around writing by Frank Wedekind about a 19th century French prostitute called Lulu, which was then reinterpreted by Reed. He, in turn, built a series of song frameworks and invited Metallica to come in and fill the space spontaneously. Thus work began in late April at HQ, and re-commenced in June after a break. The subsequent album, Lulu, was released on Oct 31st/Nov 1st,2011 and was not the best-received album project ever it must be said, in time it will surely start to be recognized at least for the brave exchange of creative energies it embraced.

Being a 'quiet year' in the calendar, Metallica obviously also found time to nip off to Europe in July for five more Big 4 gigs, including one at Knebworth in the UK, and others in Germany, Italy, France and Sweden. There was also one further Big 4 show in the US during September, at New York's famous Yankee Stadium, the last Big 4 show so far.

They also traveled to Abu Dhabi, Delhi and Bangalore in late October, places never played by Metallica before. Abu Dhabi was a resounding success, uniting many Middle Eastern countries for their first-ever taste of Metallica live, and everything leading up to the show in Delhi promised the same, but after a huge safety issue occurred, Delhi was cancelled and a mini-riot ensued. Matters resolved sufficiently for the Bangalore show to take place in front of a rabidly enthusiastic audience, thus expanding yet further the breadth of Metallica's fan-tastic family.

After that, there was a quick five days stop at home in San Francisco (just enough time for a video to be shot with Oscar-winning director Darren Aronofsky for "The View") before heading to London, Paris, Köln and Milan to perform a series of television and internet-streamed mini-live sets with Lou Reed for the Lulu project. This was in November.

By which time, the few heads which had started to ponder what 30 years of Metallica might mean... how could it be marked... how could it be celebrated, found themselves thick in the slipstream of mobilizing a small army to make sure that on December 5, 7, 9 and 10, The Fillmore, San Francisco became the property of Metallica and their fan club, the Met Club. Four shows with four totally different sets (except for "Seek And Destroy" which was played on all four nights) and four totally different sets of guests ranging from Diamond Head to Ozzy Osbourne, from Glen Danzig to Rob Halford, performing the covers Metallica had themselves played in years gone by. Add to that Jim Breuer, the famed comedian, as the event host, a nightly game show, a nightly tribute to Cliff Burton, a Metallica Museum, limited edition posters and coin giveaways via the balloon drop at the end of the night, and it was about as much Metallica as any fan could possibly have imagined. And the real kicker? Only Met Club members got to attend, each night costing $6 with a special 4-night 4-pack ticket on sale for $19.81. PLUS, with one unheard song from the Death Magnetic sessions being performed live each night, the band released an original session recording of said-song free to all clubbers at the end of each night! It was, indeed, as close to heaven as a Metallica fan could get. Rounding off the year was a casual release of said 4 songs on iTunes called Beyond Magnetic, which subsequently shot to the top of the iTunes charts and saw the band decide to then release it as a CD! A quiet year indeed!

As usually happens at this point of the bio, you will see words like 'to be continued' and 'watch this space', the usual sorts of endings such documents tend to carry... except in Metallica's case, you'd be a fool not to. They've already announced they'll play The Black Album in its entirety at their European run in May and June of 2012 as well as announcing the formation of their very own music and arts festival, Orion Music + More. So it really ISN'T stretching the imagination to suggest there's a whole lot more gonna happen... watch this to be continued space!