Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mick & Lars

The Rolling Stones / Metallica
PacBell Park, San Francisco
Nov. 15, 2005

Umlaut has already ranted in this space about the ridiculous ticket prices the Rolling Stones are charging for their current tour. Were the Stones trying to be funny by having a mortgage company (Ameriquest) sponsor the tour? Irony is a dish best served with an Amortization Table I guess.

That being said, given Umlaut's history with Metallica, part of me couldn't help but be curious to see this odd lineup. I suppose The Stones should be applauded for being inspired enough to invite S.F.'s hometown heroes to support them here, especially compared to the crap bands supporting them in other cities (Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas, etc.).

It's also not often that two of the most annoying Rock Stars on the planet share a bill. One can only imagine what Mick and Lars discussed backstage (NWOBHM perhaps?). However, despite the unique nature of the event, there was no way Umlaut was going to spend a mortgage payment on a silly Rock Show.

On that note, NEVER take Karma for granted. Umlaut ain't a hippie, but from past experience I've learned that Karma and the Rock Godz do indeed walk hand in hand. THANKS to The Guardian for the hook up. Also, THANKS to Security Jay-T for letting us into the Club Level eventhough we weren't supposed to be there...

Skychick saw The Stones in 1975 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was her 15th Birthday and also Ron Wood's birthday (June 1st). That was 30 years ago this year. Trippy!

Umlaut saw Metallica in 1982 at The Old Waldorf in San Francisco. It was his 19th Birthday (October 18th). That was 23 years ago this year. Trippy!

Pushead's t-shirt art for the shows

There was a bit of hype about this being Metal vs. Classic Rock, but let's face it... That would be true if Slayer were sharing the bill with the Stones. Metallica are defined as "Metal" only because of their brand recognition these days, not because of the music they've produced over the past decade.

That being said, my inner 19-year old Metalhead couldn't help but feel geeky about Metallica being perceived as the evil Metal band invading the sacred mainstream Stones concert. Like I said, if it had been Slayer (or Metallica circa 1985-89) the war would have been real, but you have to take what you can get.

As a nod to Metal, I wore a Motörhead shirt. As we walked through the concourse a chick wearing a Metallica shirt saw it and shouted "MOTÖRHEAD!!" at me. As Metallica played, it was fun to watch Stones fans leave their seats or look frightened as a kid next to them headbanged, gave the Devil Horn sign, and sang along to the Metal. Talkin' 'bout my ge-ge-generation.

Thankfully, Metallica's therapist wasn't onstage with them ("San Francisco! Are you ready to Rock?! You are? Why do you think you to feel that way? I see... Well, Lars is going to tell you HIS feelings about you being ready to Rock..").

For the Metalheads, here's the setlist:
  • Ecstasy Of Gold Intro Tape
  • Orion > Creeping Death
  • Wherever I May Roam
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • The Unforgiven
  • Fuel
  • Sad But True
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Master Of Puppets
  • One
  • Enter Sandman
This was the strangest, most passive Metallica show I've ever seen. There were alot of Metallica fans in the house, but onstage the band seemed neutered and intimidated. Only Kirk looked like he belonged up there.. In the past when the band has played support in stadiums they've taken the place over and made the stage their own.. Headliners be damned. The 21st Century sensitive Metallica seemed like they didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by ramming some Metal down their throats. Hmmm, maybe they should have had their therapist onstage after all.

I was also bemused that the mighty Metallica had to bend over and play underneath two large "Ameriquest: The Mortgage Company" banners that were hung onstage during their set (but removed for the Stones). Ozzy and Van Halen never made them grab their ankles like that. Exit light, enter night.

Besides the ridiculous ticket prices, the stage was also ridiculous and a bit much for Umlaut.

The production simply overwhelmed the music.. At one point, part of the center section of the stage rolled down a track to the back of the stadium so the band could play to the folks in the "cheap" seats. All of the production was well and good to justify the ridiculous ticket prices, but the songs were buried under the glitz. The show was all so safe and clean. The guitars sounded safe and clean. Sympathy For The Devil sounded safe and clean.

However, Ron Wood is still cool... and they did play Midnight Rambler. Despite all of my geek nitpicking, it was still a F-U-N night out.

As we were leaving, hundreds of people were in boats in McCovey Cove and standing along the cove and on Lefty O'Doul Bridge listening to the show. They were also able to see the huge video screens on the ginormous stage from outside the stadium. Combine that with a balmy S.F. night and a full moon and it was the perfect cheap date that saved those folks hundreds of dollars.

Guitar Wolf shirts seen = 1 (!). The Stones had a nice glossy 24-page merch catalog to take away from the show. If you bought one of every Stones merch item you would have paid... $5,893 (FIVE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND NINETY-THREE DOLLARS!). If you bought one of every Metallica merch item (1 shirt!) you would have paid $35. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. The best stadium show Umlaut saw this year is still Green Day.

Don't argue with me.


Umlaut and John Marshall have known each other at least 22 years. He's seen a million faces as he's rocked them all.. Old Metallica fans will remember John as a member of their original road crew (stage manager / guitar tech) and fill-in guitarist in 1986 and 1992 when Hetfield couldn't play guitar due to injuries. Metal fans will know him as guitarist for the Northwest's mighty Metal Church from 1987-93. Click HERE to read John's Hammersmith memories.

Submitted by John:

I've seen the Stones twice before: Bridges to Babylon and Voodoo Lounge tours. I went mainly because my wife is a big fan, I wouldn't have gone on my own. However, I've always enjoyed the shows... the Rolling Stones are a great rock and roll band, arguably the biggest band ever, and know how to entertain.

It was a strange thing, knowing that someone I know was going to play with the Stones. When Kirk and I were 15 years old, he was learning to play guitar and would write out lyrics and chord changes so he could practice the songs. One of those songs was Brown Sugar. About 3 years ago, I was digging in a box of old stuff and found some of those papers, including Brown Sugar. I gave them back to him, and we had a laugh about it. Last weekend he joked that he was going to have Keith Richards sign it. I don't know if he did or not, but it's just so WEIRD how things come around. It's even weirder that I could tell that story. When you're a teenager and daydreaming about what your life will be, you have no idea about how it's going to end up. A strange thing.

John and Kirk Hammett - The Keystone, Palo Alto, CA - Halloween 1983
(Pic by Umlaut)

We missed the beginning of Metallica's set, hearing For Whom The Bell Tolls echoing up the canyons of Third Street while walking to SBC from downtown. When we got inside, it was a strange sight: Metallica playing to a half empty house, with no pyro, a subdued light show, small video screens. All the classic symptoms of a support act. Now Metallica haven't been a true support act in almost 20 years, but even when they were they always came out like they had something to prove, like they owned the stage. The headliner usually suffered because of it as well. But this time was different. They seemed to genuinely accept the fact that they were in someone else's house, on someone else's stage. Maybe it was respect, maybe it was intimidation, maybe it was just a lack of effort--- whatever it was, it's a suit that doesn't fit them well. The crowd loved them, they got a great response (especially to the ummm..... hits), but they weren't IN COMMAND. It was weird.

The rest of the show was just great entertainment, if you take for that. Keef's swagger is still there, although somewhat subdued since Bridges to Babylon. If you went to the show to hear some of the best rock and roll songs ever written, fuggedaboutit. The songs got lost (with a couple of exceptions) in a haze of spotlights, fireworks, and a stage too big to believe. However with the full moon, the warm night and the seats up in heaven, it was like sitting in the backyard watching a big screen TV with the stereo cranked up. Pretty cool.


  • Honky Tonk Women. Played on the little stage in the middle of the field, it rocked the house.
  • Satisfaction.
  • The view of the Berkeley Hills, the full moon on the bay. When they showed the moon on the big screen it got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
  • Calling Umlaut in between sets on the cell phone. Technology rules.
  • Realizing that no matter how big or how good the show was, most people paid WAY too much for it.
  • 44 -- The number of boats in McCovey cove.
  • 3 -- The number of kids under 15 seen. There should have been WAY more. It was a perfectly safe, sane night to have the kids experience their first concert. Even with Metallica on the bill.
  • $10 -- The least expensive piece of merch, and the exact amount I sacrificed to the mighty merch machine. It was a little flashing pin-on Rolling Stones tongue. You could see them lighting up all over the stadium in the dark. Pretty cool.
I have a dream.... that the Stones get rid of all the excess glitz and play a 25 night stand at The Fillmore or The Warfield. As a real rock and roll band, not a corporate behemoth. I have a dream..........