September 22, 2013
It was like the Overlook Hotel in a positive spin...the walls spoke...the seats whispered...venue hallways almost seemed to scream the history which had soaked into the Apollo Theater...you closed your eyes and if you strained you'd catch James Brown on the good foot or Aretha Franklin belting out some respect...maybe even Jimi dazzling fresh ears with fresh rashers of genius on Amateur Night...so much history in this little old 1,500 seat, three-tiered theater, Harlem New York's jewel, Harlem New York's main cultural offering to the world. Let's just call it one of the most important seats in rock history for the moment, but such is the power of this place of musical worship that Metallica's über special SiriusXM radio firgig never overshadowed the fact that this was Metallica invited to play at the Apollo Theater; the venue was the old dog, the superstar, the major player, and it had decided it'd be happy to invite Metallica to become the latest to pay homage to it's old legendary stage.
And didn't they? By now you've probably heard the broadcast, but if you didn't, you're missing something. You're missing some pretty feral Metallica for a start! There was love and aggression in the air, Hetfield soaking up every last spiritual drop of vibe that the Apollo was putting out, and cycling it into Metallica energy which Ulrich eagerly seized upon too, his undercurrent of jazz giving him some extra power...Trujillo was born to be the conduit of funky soulful vibes in the air, and the Apollo breathes them out by the pound, whilst watching Hammett solo, all hair and shadows, it was hard not to contemplate Hendrix's appearance on that very same stage back in 1964.
The sound was phenomenal, raucously rabble-raisingly loud with Big Mick understanding perfectly that this was a night to shake the foundations to the very heart of their soul (more food for the Apollo walls to absorb) and the audience slavishly lapped it up, engrossed in their favorites but also enthralled by the venue...yeah...I know I keep riffing on the venue, but rarely have I ever felt four walls and a roof quite the way the Apollo felt me, and siriusly (!!!) I don't believe in my heart there's a single person who went that would not agree.
Eighteen 'Tallica classics got to become part of the Apollo's rich tapestry of live music received; the likes of "Ride The Lightning" which was particularly crunchy, the likes of "Battery" which roared with verve and edge, and "The Memory Remains" which seemed so perfect for this, so tailor-goddam-made to be heard in this church of song, Hetfield leaving the crowd to emboss themselves on the Apollo's musical history by singing the end (a challenge the crowd took up with gusto). Perhaps it was just me, but it felt as though a combination of physical proximity to each other plus the history hanging in the air pushed the band to do an even better show than usual. Because as you heard (and again, if you didn't, go and find the damn show NOW! and it will be available on livemetallica.com) this was a special moment, a unique one, a show that people will talk about for a long time to come.
And now, alongside Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin and John Lennon and James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, alongside Benny Carter and Billie Holiday, alongside Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, alongside Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and The Commodores, alongside Parliament and Bob Marley among others, are Metallica. The latest members of The Apollo Theater's royal family...and proud to be so.
All photos by Ross Halfin