May 20, 2003
But I digress, so back to business and first things first…I read someone ask last night about the whole ‘did they rehearse for this’ thing. The answer is not really. Because these are their rehearsals. That’s why there are the odd few mistakes, the occasional mishap, the sorts of things that people who are short on confidence get aggravated with, but the sorts of things that people who are happy get over quickly.
It’s funny, because I’m never too sure if the guys realize the control they have over the atmosphere in a building (n.b to self, must ask them that one day) but there’s no doubt that these days the positivity is a throbbing pulse through the camp. Which also further explains why last night was so exhilarating, and why already, tonight feels even looser. Remember, last night was the first proper show they’ve played in front of the public for too long, thus their nerves and stresses were alleviated too.
And this is also why they’ve been wandering around the balcony here catching up with old friends beforehand. James looks relaxed, really relaxed, at ease and enjoying the whole rigaramol of live performance again. Lars is just exuding calm confidence, Kirk is like a young garage musician again and Rob is just flowing everywhere, one fluid mover who has made a seemless transition into Metalliworld.
It is (of course) a packed house again. And as the AC/DC tape plays, arms thrust in the air, it really is loud, very loud, and as the words ‘Long Way To The Top’ come blaring out I ponder them with relevance to these chaps. I don’t think, on reflection, it was for Metallica, but I’ll tell you this; it’s been a long way to here, tonight, last night and tomorrow. Because believe it, Metallica were wounded for a while at the turn of 2000, limping, angry, hurt, confused and unable to articulate all or any of that. There’s been a lot of work gone into repairing the beast, a lot of tough love, a lot of warmth too, a helluva lot of soul searching but most importantly, their own rediscovery that this is what they do, right here. Of course they’re family men, of course they have lives, but they now also appreciate their gift more than I believe they ever have.
The final piece of this jigsaw has proven to be Robert. The lynch-pin, both musically (bass, rhyhtm, right?) and spiritually (flexible, mobile, just plain Goddam nice!). Jason Newsted, the warrior and talent that he always has been, was like an iron rod. A steel pin. And with such rigidity comes drill-like precision, stiffness and resolve without laughter or happiness. Robert is that same strength pin but made of rubber, flexible, he moves with things yet holds it all like the bassist does, energy, rawness, smiles and snarls. He has majorly helped allow this band to remember what it is to enjoy shows.
I’m watching ‘Blackened’ as tonight’s opener from Big Mick’s board, and these are men re-born. Cliche? Not here. The riff sounds as fresh as when it was written, because there is no longer reserve about playing the fucking thing (n.b note to self, be sure to ask them if they did, before now, feel shy about these songs).
Straight into ‘No Remorse’…James is jamming hard, smiling a lot more than he ever did, and then they hit the speed break…and people ask if these guys can still do it at this pace? Fuck THEM for asking!…and did this band ever NOT have Trujillo? And a word about Kirk…he probably suffered more than anyone when Jason left, he was hurt, his feelings stung by the departure. And now he is in the best position Kirk could be in. Surfing buddy, rhythm pig, good soul…Kirk is playing with an invigoration I doubt even he thought would’ve e been possible 18 months ago…Bob Rock ( a spiritual, and creative, Godfather to them) would be proud of them right now.
Ah come on then, let’s talk about Lars. God love him. Recently he’s been getting a little tired, a,little grumpy, a little (nervous?)…but here, now, he knows for SURE that this band is rock solid, pure, tough and for real again. He’s happier, I can see it, and I can also the devil twinkling in his eyes, the man who’s on a mission to show everyone who doubted (and there were many) that they were WRONG.
Back to tonight. The set is re-arranged (of course) some new old stuff if you know what I mean, (‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ “I forgot to how heavy that song was, I think we need to play that one on the tour, that’s a yes!”-JH) and while I preferred the whole roaring –fuck-em-all motordeath of last night’s headbasher, tonight is a great example of how this band will be prepared, without any notice, to switch up their sets this Summer, to break the formula and go with whatever flow seems right. Over 40 songs to try out and fit? Nah, over 40 songs and see what you get! The way it should be.
‘Frantic’ is fantastic (‘searching for donuts!) a crusher, a killer, an unsubtle sledgehammer. Ahhh how GOOD it feels to need to use those kranium krunching kliches again for these boys (ticktickticktock) and James is on fire with this. “Cliff ‘Em All’ baby, hell yes…he’s alive in all our hearts…” he says right after the song ends, and this is something which he never used to really acknowledge even though it hurt him, never really used to express, even though he felt it. Not anymore. Now he can say it and we can say it too and we can all know it and Cliff can smile and give a thumbs up, that hook finger waving too.
‘Creeping Death’ without Jason’s ‘die’…salt without pepper? Na. Different? Yes. For sure. This a Jason vein-popper, a true measure of the man’s metal. But is it worse post-Jason? Naaa, don’t be silly, in fact it’s more fluid…
‘Whiplash’, a song so dusty that even the dust mites were full and had vacated that vault, is now back to being raw, abrasive, corrosive, and bloody. This is the sort of thing people have waited for for too long, the shedding of inhibitions, the desire to play these old classics again (n.b. must ask them if they were embarrassed to play this before.)
‘Leper Messiah’ another old classic…and the fun simply hasn’t stopped emanating from the stage. That’s what we’re seeing, that’s what we’re witnessing. A friend pointed out that James doesn’t stay in the center, that he moves all over, that they all swap off, that there is no ‘frontman’ per see, that it’s all about everyone. That comes with being happy. Really. And I cannot help and reflect on how long that perhaps they weren’t as happy as we all thought, as even they might have thought (oh and how long before they all start trying to RT ‘Leper…’crab-walk???)
And here’s another really cool moment…RT leading the ‘Battery’ charge dead-center, on his back, in a crawl, swinging that mane of fucking hair…k-i-l-l-e-r! and Kirk just looking at him and smiling, and James just looking at him and grinning and Lars just looking at everything and laughing and smiling and grinning at it all, but certainly at Rob.
And how much do we LOVE hearing ‘Hit The Lights’ again? Hearing world famous rock stars SCREAMING ‘no life ‘til leather’ baby YEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH, and a screeching Hammett solo, and a rudely healthy Ulrich pounding 25 shades of shit out of that green monster? I’ll tell you how much. A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot!
And y’know what else? I kinda like watching Lars grow (back) into a cocky little bastard again up there, grimacing and gesturing before ‘Breadfan’. Somehow it seems right that he should enjoy that, enjoy being the rock star he is, always wanted to be and for a few months back there towards the end of 2001 thought he might never be again. Is this vindication for a man who got hammered by the world because he spoke up against stealing? Yes. And guess what? I don’t care what he, or anybody else says, deep down inside he’s enjoying, no reveling in the thought that he will get the chance to shove it to everyone. Again, I believe that Rob is making him work harder than ever, and I further believe that he loves being worked to fulfill potential, to be as good as he can be.
And then to finish with a particularly brutal ‘Battery’? Who dared say they’re too fucking old for that fast, heavy shit? Not me brother…last words of this night to Hetfield “Thank you so much friends, you all kick ass! We’ll see ya around , thank you very much man, take care of yourselves, this is very special, Metallica loves ya, see ya…”
Or is to Kirk…
“Hey, thank you man, you ru…(the rest drowned out by crowd!)
Naaa, must be to Rob…
“Hey listen, just wanna say thanks a lot for welcoming me into The Fillmore, into your family and into Metallica…thank you…” (the rest drowned out by yelling).
Who the hell am I kidding? It can only belong to one man…
“I know a lot of u guys have traveled a long way, thank you, your support and loyalty kept us going, we really appreciate it, thank y....(the rest, again, drowned out by yelling).”
So What! Editor
Ride the Lightning
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
The Thing That Should Not Be
Master of Puppets
Harvester of Sorrow
Seek and Destroy
Hit the Lights