Live Review: Metallicaby Mitch Goldman
Key Arena, Seattle, WA 5/20/97
Don't be fooled by the haircuts; Metallica 1997 is a lot like Metallica 1991, or 92, or 94. Except bigger. Which is to say that America's best metal band have enlarged their stage, expanded their set, and somehow made their live show both more intimate while making full use of the arena. Their stage now covers the entire arena floor, creating ample room for close up views of all four members (drummer Lars Ulrich has two kits, one at either end of the massive stage). They even indulged in bit of theatrical tomfoolery to climax the show, the first of two Seattle Key Arena performances that ended their 1997 U. S. tour.
Oh yeah, and there was music too. Lots and lots of music, nearly two and half hours of old classics you can't live without ("Creeping Death", "Master of Puppets", "Fade to Black", "For Whom the Bell Tolls"), the songs that made them the most popular hard rock band in the world ("Enter Sandman", "Sad But True", "Wherever I May Roam") and great takes on newer tunes from last year's Load cd (the BOC-ish "Until it Sleeps", the gorgeous power ballad "Hero of the Day", the guttural "Wasting My Hate"). Guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett played with their usual melodic crunch while bassist Jason Newsted and Lars held down the rhythmic fort with severe energy. Lars in particular is great to watch; as one of the most inventive drummers in modern rock, his style is both punchy and fluid. As they move into 30-something territory, the foursome in black seem to have lost none of their power or momentum.
And what's a Metallica show without pyrotechnics? By now it's standard to expect the explosions of flame that open the World War I saga "One", or the dazzling lights that bathe the band in colorful washes of brilliance, or all the other bursts of fire and noise that accompany the biggest show in arena metal. What's not standard was the hilarious drama with which the band climaxed the show; during the encore segment, technical problems (seemingly very real) caused sound outages, malfunctions, and huge explosions, resulting in two "injured" crew members (one of whom was completely engulfed in flames). Straightfaced, the band had the injured parties whisked away by medics while they played in a diminished space on the stage, bare lightbulbs swinging over their heads as if their massive light system no longer functioned. In an strange tribute to the club days this setup emulated, Metallica played three classic tunes to finish the show: about half of Iron Maiden's "Killers"; Metallica's oft-played Diamond Head cover "Am I Evil" and the Master of Puppets opener "Battery". This nod to their roots, both musically and visually, didn't seem at odds with the huge spectacle that preceded it; Metallica seem capable of conveying the gigantic power of their music while retaining the heart and personal joy that fuels it.
King Nothing (intro)
Four Horsemen (instrumental)
Copyright © 1997
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