Review: Stephen Goodwin
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||James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett sear the air with the frenetic dual guitar solo that concludes One. Wedged between them, man-mountain Robert Trujillo crouches over his massive bass.
Three abreast and in-your-face, Lars Ulrich pulverising his kit directly behind them, the hulk and bulk of their physical presence as they shred away inspires awe.
And it’s precisely what’s been absent for much of the 40 minutes since Metallica opened their first Brisbane performance with the Ennio Morricone-inspired bombast of Ecstasy of Gold.
Because, fundamentally, the stage is just too damn big.
At least 30 metres on either side, and another 10 at either end, the rectangular in-the-round affair is enormous. That’s a lot of metres for even Metallica’s massive egos to dominate.
Of course, it’s a big ask. But it’s a self-inflicted problem — just like a lot of the issues that have afflicted the band in the two decades since the black album turned them into a world-bestriding colossus.
From the outset, there are hints the quartet can transcend the limitations that hobbled the supports. Paradoxically, it’s the Death Magnetic material packing most punch early on.
[Photos: Stuart Blythe]
The menace of ‘That Was Just Your Life’ — more felt than seen as Hetfield sings, his face starkly framed in a yellow-white demonic glow while the others lurk in a monstrous darkness lit by mathematically precise blazes of green and blue laser lights.
The elongated drawl of ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’ — guitars yowling in tandem as Hetfield, Hammett and Trujillo cluster tightly around Ulrich’s kit.
And the fury of ‘All Nightmare Long’ — all coiled tension in the intro, before unleashing itself in long passages of roiling thrash.
Perhaps it’s the preponderance of “Metallica virgins” present — a show of hands at Hetfield’s prompting reveals it’s the first Metallica gig for more than half the crowd. Or maybe it’s simply that Death Magnetic’s tracks are some of the band’s thrashiest work in two decades.
Certainly, it’s telling that, live, the new material shines while slower passages during For ‘Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘Fade To Black’ and ‘Leper Messiah’ emphasise the vacuum that develops whenever they disperse to play to different sections of the crowd.
Then ‘Master Of Puppets’ detonates.
Hetfield toys with the crowd till, fists raised in unison, they scream “master” at his whim. Then, as if unsatisfied with that bit part, they hum Hammett’s eerie mid-section lead break. Doubts vanish and analysis becomes meaningless as the dazzling interplay of drums, riffage and solo illustrates how Metallica still have the tunes — and the chops — to transcend a stage of any dimensions.
And with a head of steam, the biggest metal juggernaut in the land proves unstoppable.
Hetfield pauses to ask: “Are you feeling good Brisbane?” On receiving a rousing affirmative from the 13,000 packed in from stage floor to top tier, he laughs evilly: “Good. Our plan is working“.
And it is.
[Photos: Stuart Blythe]
Through Blackened’s nihilistic guitar and scorching gouts of flame, the slow-build dirge of Nothing Else Matters and the bass-laden punch of Enter Sandman, the band, sound and atmosphere is nothing short of mesmerising.
A short break and they return to tease with a brief flirtation with the introductory lines of ‘The Frayed Ends Of Sanity’ — an intro adapted from the Wizard Of Oz. It works, the crowd eagerly supplying the wordless groaning of the Wicked Witch’s soldier guard, until Hammett and Ulrich cut things short, derailing the song with jazzified weirdness.
Its replacement is just as good: a faultless rendition of the Diamond Head classic ‘Am I Evil’.
A pair from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All conclude a stunning turnaround.
First, ‘Whiplash’ fizzes, and the lyrics “We’ll never stop, we’ll never quit, ’cause we’re Metallica” never seemed to possess so much meaning as they’re roared by thousands of delirious fans.
Then scores of black beach balls drop through the massive Death Magnetic coffins of gunmetal grey hanging from the ceiling. The band launches into ‘Seek And Destroy’, and there is no escape. Much as some might like to deny it, Metallica has broken out of their coffin. They’ve still got it. They’re still searching. Seek And Destroy indeed.
Review: Stephen Goodwin
Related – other articles by Stephen Goodwin:
* Zeni Geva, No Anchor, Midget Pillion @ Rosies, Brisbane : 24 September 2010 – Photo Gallery
* No Anchor w/ Fangs of a TV Evangelist @ Tempo Bar, Brisbane 27 August 2010 – Photo Gallery
* Beyond The Banana Curtain 35th CD Launch @ The Zoo, Brisbane – Photo Gallery
* more article by Stephen Goodwin
Ecstasy Of Gold
That Was Just Your life
End Of The Line
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Fade To Black
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Sad But True
Turn The Page
All Nightmare Long
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Am I Evil
Seek And Destroy