May 22, 2003
….Death Angel are screaming and roaring as we enter the building, and I gotta tell ya, I like to hear Death Angel scream and roar like that, it's a fine thing, a good thing, a righteous noise and I hope we hear more of it sooner than later.
Being the last night, the friends and family area upstairs is packed, and the friends and family area downstairs is packed too. Night 4. Could've done 14. But we're grateful for the quartet, right? In the tight, tight backstage area, I can sense that this is not a night for anybody who doesn't need to be there, thus I take off for the plum viewing point that is Big Mick's soundboard and settle in as the old 'good, bad and ugly' kicks off…and it will kick off (I've seen the set-list and tonight is gonna be a marathon endeavor of speed, power and aggression. There'll be no 'arena-type set' here tonight! Indeed, this promises to be the 'fuck you!' variety, the 'catch us if you can' sort, a benchmark along the lines of Sunday.
And opener 'Battery' supports that perception, astonishingly fast and furious, I'd say it's bordering on highly violent. And it is LOUDER TONIGHT, THE LOUDEST I HAVE HEARD YET AT THESE FILLMORE SHOWS. IN FACT MAYBE I SHOULD JUST KEEP ON WRITING LIKE THIS, BECAUSE I CANNOT HEAR MYSELF THINK!
WICKED!!!! IS IT JUST ME, OR ARE THIS BAND HAPPIER PLAYING AT THIS VOLUME, WITH THIS MATERIAL AND SLIGHTLY, EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY AGGRO'D UP?!
"We are Metallica and so are you baby…"
Straight into 'Master Of Puppets' and it's chugging, loud LOUD and held in the pocket perfectly. (DID I MENTION IT'S FUCKING LOUD?!!!) They are certainly looking more malevolent tonight, leaner than last night, as though they've a point to prove to someone somewhere. But whatever the driver, this is pretty damn good…James is certainly enjoying that ending 'Master…' laugh, getting his value out of it and then some.
"Hell-o friends…I'm glad u made it man," he says, "It's so good to see you guys, really, Metallica's been through some rough stuff and it's good to know some people love you. We love you right back. This here's a Metallica rehearsal, we're practicing kicking ass, so if we fuck up, you can point at the person responsible…(chuckles) there's no hiding here, but just smile when you point would ya?"
And then it's straight into a meaty, chunk-laden rendition of 'Harvester Of Sorrow', James death grunting the intro. Robert is absolutely wailing away, hopping and leaping and jumping and popping all over, Lars (in black as always!) is not about to give any quarter. He is, indeed, in fine fine form…and Kirk, once again, is having an absolute blast.
'One' and when those machine guns kick in , they're, err, LOUD AND ANGRY (do you see the pattern to night 4 of The Fillmore? Loud and proudly, joyously, pissed off)…
Oh, by the way. There are no signs of fading limbs or atrophying body parts. I was joking about all that, though again, the point of their unadulterated speed and endurance cannot be understated.
"We're feeling mighty strong and happy…I was afraid I was gonna be the first one that got pointed to," laughs James before going on to say, "my name's James, this is Kirk, this is Lars back here and our newest family member Mr Rob Trujillo, tarantulata…watch out for him, he's scary, proud to have him in this band, powerful and an awesome addition, here to make Metallica stronger. This next one is new and it's called 'St. Anger'."
It's quite a sight watching that song rev rev rev up, Lars building the tempo until he hits blast-beat pace, James and Kirk riffing the hell out of it, the bridge to provide respite…it reminds me that this band have NO point to prove to anyone but themselves, and that is EXACTLY what this whole album and tour is about. The doing it for themselves, finding pleasure in extremes, finding release in sheer relentlessness. And y'know what? IT'S STILL DEAFENINGLY LOUD (this is a GOOD thing, as the volume has not meant a loss of clarity)
'Thing That Should Not Be' sees Kirk's 'v' out for the old monolithic stomper, and 'tis a cracking version, full of blister and anger, and… y'know? I have suddenly realized that this will make the set this summer, as will all of these songs from all of these nights, because I'll bet these guys will change them up and around as, and when, it feels right. (BY THE WAY, THE CHORUS JUST GOT PUSHED TO EAR BLEEDER MODE, CHRIST ALMIGHTY ARE THEY PROVING A POINT OR WHAT? AGAIN, NO LOSS OF CLARITY, JUST A SUPER-CHARGED VOLUME!)
"We've got a new album coming out, I think, June 10th, we're proud of it and we're gonna play another one off it here, called 'Frantic'!" says James, and I must say I love this song. I love it's unashamed rawness, I love it's little ear-candy desert rock-like hook, I love it's unadulterated fuck you-ness…and I love the fact that the riff-is-God here (indeed on all 'St.Anger' material), that there's no need for anything else, that the guitars just work as one huge tool of abrasion… "Whaddya think? Shall we keep that on the set-list?" asks James, receiving a roar back. "OK a check next to that one… gotta get back into shape too…are ya havin' fun? Well if y'are then let's get as loud as fuck baby!"
It's time for a bit of RTL era, first with '…Bells…' (Kirk leading the crowd, striding the stage, enthusing the hands, getting them, requesting more) And then 'Ride…'which tonight is tremendous. Again, that tempo is held perfectly in the pocket, the true sign of a band who have the stamina, and a signal that Lars is back close to fighting shape, his enthusiasm self-reigned, those energy explosions channeled perfectly.
'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)' is next, and I love the tempo, it sounds slightly tuned down and slightly chuggier, which all reminds me what a mighty, mighty song this is.
"This is a nasty little number dedicated to all of you here!" snarls James, and they're into 'Damage Inc' which is a massive YES! On my richter scale. The solo from Kirk is quite literally rrrripping (The Ripper returns! J)
"Thank you we appreciate you comin' down here and spending some fun times down here, we feel so good you're here, Metallica luvs ya!" says James as they leave the stage, and as the crowd waits they break into the gnomish chant from the start of 'Frayed Ends Of Sanity' (FRAYED ENDS OF MY BLOODY EARDRUMS MATEY, THIS HAS BEEN LOUD 'UN) which means that even though it isn't on the set-list, Kirk cranks the riff and they just decide to pile into it until they have a wreck! Superb! Spontainiety. A fine fine thing, although Rob laughs that, "the guys wanted me to learn that one right now, on the break, right then!"
"We need some music to get us goin' again!" says James, and in comes 'No Remorse' with Rob crab-crawlin' his way into the heart of the riff. The guitars meet in a sonic bridge before the speed break (Kirk and James point at each other, laughing over a small confusion) and then they are OFF into the land of pace and power, the area they've always visited well in.
'Leper Messiah' sees Lars counts Rob in for 5 and they are rhythmic congruence defined, before Rob takes the center mike, and by the time they've reached 'Blackened', it's clear that these are the displays which prove Metallica to be an awesome ever-presence in life. The slow break mid-song shows them in full 'destroy' mode…
It is during 'Breadfan' that one of those unique incidents you talk about for years happens. They start and then they abruptly stop. Kirk & James joke about tuning wars.
"It can never be me, right?" says J…everyone giggles,
"Do you have 13 guitars…that's a lot"
"He's extra evil with 13 guitars!" says Rob, and another quip or two later sees them start again.
They both charge in after a Kirk guitar change but it's still 'off'…magically cool and funny…Kirk sits behind the drums, Lars is wandering about grinning, James wants to smash a tuner(in jest of course)…and there they are, standing around trying to find out where the flatness is…pretty funny stuff. Then they both change guitars. Unique. and I know musicians don't like this stuff but it makes for those unique nights… And then they hit it on the money, and I'd say the song benefits from the extra pent-up and unspent delivery of the last few minutes.
Oh, it also unleashed some minorly majorly funny dialogue.
LU: "I think that's about enough metal for week eh? Back to 'I disappear'!"
RT: Thanks you very much for welcoming me into 'the family'
JH: I wanna play one more,
KH: I wanna, do you?
JH: It says so on the set sheet
LU: OK, but I don't wanna go thru the tuning shit again, have you guys got that sorted out?
JH: Tuning shcmooning, lets KICK ASS
"This one's about bad breath…lets get everyone doing the 'hey hey hey' thing, wanna?" roars James and it's a final bit of 'Motorbreath' to close the night, it-is-FAST AND LOUD AND CLEAR BUT LOUD AND JUST PLAIN, MOTHERF**KIN' LOUD! Sharp as a field of tacks under barefoot it must be told (even if James melodically agreed to 'fucking up' the lyrics) and as they say goodnight to the Bay Area until August 10th, you can sense how physically challenging, but ultimately damn rewarding, the shows have been for them.
These four nights were legendary. We all, I'm sure, have our favorites, and allow me to share mine. Night one, simply because it was the heaviest Metallica set I've seen for many many years and it took me completely by surprise, and tonight simply because it was loud and ugly and sharp and mean and tough.
I'll add a postscript tomorrow afternoon when I have some energy, but I really…must…go…to…slee---zzzzzzzz…
Master Of Puppets
Harvester Of Sorrow
The Thing That Should Not Be
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ride The Lightning
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
So What! Editor