Metallica are masters of metal, deception in Vancouver
Metallica performs in Edmonton at Rexall Place on Friday, August 17, 2012. (Jeff Yeager)
Published Saturday, August 25, 2012 12:56PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 25, 2012 1:00PM PDT
For fans attending Metallica’s concerts tonight and on Monday, if Friday night’s events at Rogers Arena were any indication of what’s to come, bear this in mind: you are watching a concert movie being filmed, with the emphasis on the movie.
Metallica chose Vancouver as the venue for their as-yet-untitled 3D concert movie, as much a tribute to the city’s filmmaking talent as the vociferousness of the Lower Mainland’s metal fans. A wise choice, as it turns out that, unlike previous concert films (Martin Scorsese/The Band’s “The Last Waltz” and Jonathan Demme/Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” being the pick of the bunch) this Metallica movie has a proper plot.
Please excuse the spoiler, but this story sees Metallica, having spent a genuine fortune on one of history’s most expensive productions, play on as technical hitches mount up. Reaching a climax with collapsing rigging, a crew member being carried off on a stretcher and the band, showbiz troopers they are, ably demonstrate why the show must always go on.
That, in essence, is the movie. And in last night’s first take, in front of a full house of enthusiastic extras, the four lead actors delivered their lines perfectly.
It went without saying that they were working from a superb musical script, the opening salvo of “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” providing a full throttle establishing scene with bass player Robert Trujillo displaying into his patented crab walk and Lars Ulrich taking every opportunity to leave his drum stool to soak up the adulation of the crowd. “Fuel” was accompanied by the first massive pyrotechnic blasts of the night, while “Ride the Lightning” contained the first accidental-on-purpose technical mistake as a generator providing real lightning to a suspended electric chair refused to return to its spot in the rigging.
Astute businessmen that Metallica are, they would never release a concert movie that didn’t contain all their biggest tunes. Wisely ignoring their recent Lou Reed collaboration/debacle, the band treated Rogers Arena to a veritable greatest hits collection. It’s likely every Metallica fan present heard his or her absolute favourite, as the band roared through “One,” “Sad but True,” “Sanitarium,” “And Justice For All” (which saw the rickety version of the statue on that album’s cover topple over), “Fade to Black,” “Master of Puppets,” “Battery” and “Enter Sandman.”
It was during that last track that misfortune turned into apparent disaster. Rogers Arena plunged into darkness and the band halted the set as mistimed explosions and collapsing rigging rocked the stage. Was this really happening? Was this part of the show? Is this really going to be in the movie?
The brilliantly bad taste joke (James Hetfield was seriously burnt in a stage accident 20 years ago) was on the crowd. It was merely a cue to gather the troops around some hastily arranged bulbs, announce that “This is what it’s like in our garage,” and blast through proto-Metallica thrash metal gems “Hit the Lights” and “Seek and Destroy.”
This weekend in Vancouver may end up producing the all-time great concert movie, but that doesn’t mean last night was an all-time great concert. Playing in the round on a stage that resembled a giant luminous space invader, Metallica members were frequently 50 yards from each other, with their backs inevitably facing one side of the arena. The upshot of this was the occasional loss of the unity of purpose that turns individuals into that most sacred of rock entities – the band. It’ll approach perfection in the editing suite; they are four brilliant musicians with a bunch of classic songs after all. But it was only as they gathered together in their pretend garage at the show’s end did they reveal their ferocious best.
Still, a memorable night of metal and drama. And for the record, they fooled me entirely.