News

The Night Before

Feb 7, 2016

Ross Halfin

“Master Of Puppets” is slaying AT&T Park, and I’m up in the 3rd deck, surrounded by a cocktail of young, old, lubricated and smoky people all getting their Metallica-groove on.

This was the first hometown-San Francisco-proper stadium headliner since Candlestick Park in 2003 and as only they can do, Metallica were walloping the sold-out crowd with a 30+ year cudgel forged of the sturdiest, most fuck-you ingredients.

“Man…this is something else…I found my space so move over!!!”

He was about 45. Glasses. Short-hair. Sleeveless puffa jacket. Khakis. And he launched into a massive, unrestrained bout of headbanging, complete with air guitar and fingers flying on the invisible fret.

“YEAAAHHH!”

Yeaaaahhhh indeed, in fact, YEEEEEAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHH to a new local middle-aged fan who had the pleasure of “discovering” Metallica tonight; think about that. His first show was tonight! And given that San Francisco has been turned into one weird frothing ball of lavish partying for the fraternity that is the NFL and over-security for the city in general, his first Metallica show must’ve been one helluva release for the man.

It was for pretty much everyone there.

The sold-out stadium, with another 340,000+ around the world watching online, connected with an old school Metallica vibe for a roll-back-the-years metal revival which onstage showed that this lot must have done a deal with the guy downstairs because Metallica looked, and felt, completely ageless, timeless and as alive and relevant as ever. Yeah, yeah, platitudes you cry, but you only have to look back over the footage which is already out there, and let your own eyes and ears decide. They were sharp, razor sharp, yet with a warm and “welcome-to-the-shindig-raging kegger” vibe.

The production was spectacular without being at all obvious.

The screen was off-set at angles, I suppose gently zig-zagging.

There was no roof.

No roof.

Think about that.

There were trusses here and there, but no huge black canopy covering the stage, no big black “box” in which the band was performing. No, this was a wiiiide oooopen staaaage baby, open to the elements whatever they might be. I was told that a high wind would be about the only thing which could cause problems, that rain would not have been an issue, not that rain even factored in; again, a call was made to the sun Gods and they let the big yellow fella smile away before ensuring that the evening wasn’t obscenely cold (which is not usually the way at AT&T, a place which during the baseball season required thick coats and thermals for night games in June!). A production like this looks seamless and easy enough, but requires almost geometric precision and the sort of high-level attention to detail which ensures not one tiny error. Yeah…the best crew out there for sure.

One thing which screamed out to me was that…yeah…these four guys still like each other! Sounds weird? Not really. Bands are families and families don’t always like each other, so you cannot ever assume that is the case. But Metallica do still like each other, and you can see it, hear it and feel it in the way they knit together to form this giant fist of sound which insists on pummeling you with its waves and textures. You cannot fake that shit, you cannot phone it in, and tonight showed the world once again that not only do Lars, James, Kirk, and Rob have a deep connection, they enjoy that deep connection in the most primal of ways - making this music together. My buddy in the upper deck whom I referred to at the start of this piece asked me if I’d ever seen the Grateful Dead, because he said this whole Night Before experience reminded him of the fierce tribal communal energy those shows generated with their audiences. He’s right. I’ve been saying for two decades that this band will establish the same aura within their community as The Dead have within theirs, and thus it has come to pass. Look, we were in a goddamn STADIUM yet everywhere I walked, I ran into people I knew, friends, some clubbers, some I’d known forever, some I hardly knew, and that’s with me not even able to meet a few close friends! So you can bet your bottom dollar and your top one too that this is every inch like the Dead family in its sheer circumference.

The guys had said this would be a set laden with heavy-hitters and it was…“Creeping Death,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Wherever I May Roam,” “Master of Puppets,” “Battery”…there was the rarity in modern Metalliparlance of seeing “Seek & Destroy” without the house lights up and as the conclusion of the set as opposed to the show, and fans got a teeny tiny taste of new riffage right after “Battery” before Kirk quickly produced another blistering solo (his second of the night)…a word about Kirk and his guitar these days. They seem to be enjoying a second honeymoon! He is quite simply playing better than for a good decade to these ears, and the actual solos themselves are the work of someone who is absolutely reborn as a guitarist.

There was a noble shout-out to Cliff before “Whiskey in the Jar” and Lars ended his night after the “…Sandman” encore (with its inflatable football-balloons) by reminding the crowd that Cliff was the reason Metallica moved to the Bay Area in the first place. And there was pyro! A whopping blast for “Fuel” and a shower of fireworks for “…Sandman”…

It’s 2:23 AM and my feet hurt, my body aches and my ears are trying really hard to rest, but my head won’t stop buzzing with the vibe of seeing Metallica crush their Bay Area family so comprehensively…the buzz of a fresh, new production that looked absolutely amazing…and the buzz of seeing people, locals, get a chance to cut loose, enjoy some beverages, hoot, holler and generally be a proper full-force fucking Metallica fan. It’d been far too long on US soil in this context. Oh, and just to share this with you before I go…I had genuinely forgotten that Super Bowl 50 is in approximately 12.5 hours’ time. But frankly I don’t care. I just saw my roaring full-throttle Super Bowl for 2016, and so did the audience at AT&T…

– Steffan Chirazi
SW! Editor

For more of Ross Halfin's photos from the gig, click here.
For MetOnTour coverage from the show, click here.

To watch the live stream of the show again, click here.
To download the audio from the show, visit LiveMetallica.com.
For a 2-CD recording of the show, click here.