Saturday, October 18, 2008

Death Magnetic Practice

Death Magnetic Tour Rehearsal
Cow Palace, San Francisco
October 17, 2008

Earlier in the day, Umlaut spent the afternoon with Skychick and dear friend Teri at the newly renovated Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The old Academy of Science was a special place from Umlaut's childhood... and to be honest I'm not that crazy about the redesigned version (Where's the octopus from the old aquarium!?)... but I suppose the place did need to be brought into the 21st Century. Highlights were the albino alligator (!!) and the skull on display that proves Motörhead's Snaggletooth is NOT a myth:

(Pic by Umlaut)

Evidently, Snaggletooth is indigenous to Indonesia. CRAZY, right!?!?! The Academy of Sciences must be a very confusing place for Creationists to visit. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Ironically, the Death Magnetic rehearsal fell within one day of the 26th Anniversary of this show:

The Old Waldorf, San Francisco
October 18, 1982

The Old Waldorf show fell on my 19th Birthday and you can download a FREE soundboard recording of it HERE. Trivia: The best part comes right before 'Metal Militia'..

Anyway, fast forward 26 years and I found myself invited to the Cow Palace with Skychick to witness Metallica rehearse for their upcoming Death Magnetic Tour, which is supposed to run for a year. An intimate, VERY laid back event for around 1,000 fan club members, radio contest winners, friends, and family. Umlaut attended a similar rehearsal 4 years ago prior to the band's St. Anger Tour and you can't argue with seeing the biggest Rock band of their generation under such intimate circumstances.

To be honest, Umlaut follows Metallica more out of habit now... and those who know me understand why. If you don't know me, the story is documented if you know where to look... but I will admit that I'm BEYOND jaded about this band. That being said, it IS cool that their new album is their best reviewed album in 17 years and the upcoming tour is their most highly anticipated in a long, long time... Despite everything, I still root for the guys... AND I'd rather have the #1 album around the world be Metallica than some crap Pop act, dyaknowwhatimean?

As they have for all of their arena tours for the past 12 years, the band is performing "in the round" with the stage in the center of the arena floor and Lars' drums on a rotating riser in the center. It's an admirable concept since it affords the entire venue the same perspective of the show... but I've never liked the configuration.. IMO it neuters the power of the band onstage since at any given time each band member is at a different spot around the stage and the Rock Star energy level is too scattered... The production overshadows THE MUSIC.. It's like watching Cirque du Soleil, but without the Asian contortionists.

Still, no one can say Metallica cuts corners on their stage design. I will give them credit for getting creative with the new lighting rig, which incorporates 8 coffin shaped sections that cleverly tie into the cover art of the new album. Clever! At different times during the set the 4 coffin sections above the stage lowered down on chains to sway back and forth as they shot blinding beams of light onto the Rock Stars, like coffins floating in Heaven! Spooky! Clever!

However, one thing that was missing at the rehearsal was PYRO. Aside from some flames during 3 songs there were none of the onstage concussion pyro explosions, whose absence was especially glaring during 'One'. Umlaut loves the pyro, and I was disappointed. Since it was a rehearsal, maybe they held back on the explosions because the loud blasts in an empty cavern like the Cow Palace could have damaged the hearing of their guests.. Seriously... Although they did fire pyro off during their 2004 tour rehearsal. Oh well... Me jaded.

It was bizarre seeing a full-on arena rock production in an empty space; the energy level normally associated with a concert just wasn't there. It was also bizarre watching the biggest Rock band of their generation perform with their full stage and production in front of empty seats and a practically empty floor section. More people are inside the Cow Palace on any given day of the annual S.F. Flower & Garden Show than there were on this night.

The 2-hour session started off strong but, since it was a rehearsal, it wasn't tight like a show where the crowd has paid $100 each to attend. As James commented from the stage "You're getting what you paid for tonight!".. A couple of times kinks had to be worked out mid-song... and at least one song just fell apart completely... but it was a rehearsal after all.

Highlights for me were 'Harvester Of Sorrow' (still one of my fave songs) and 'Blitzkrieg', which was cool since this performance fell so close to the above mentioned anniversary. Old Skool 4 Evah! For those who care, the rehearsal setlist was:
  • The Ecstacy Of Gold intro tape
  • That Was Just Your Life
  • The End Of The Line
  • Harvester Of Sorrow
  • Wherever I May Roam
  • One
  • Broken, Beat And Scarred
  • Cyanide
  • Frantic
  • Until It Sleeps
  • The Four Horsemen
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Fight Fire With Fire
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Enter Sandman
  • Last Caress
  • Blitzkrieg
  • Seek and Destroy
Prior to the rehearsal, I warned Skychick that the night would be like a High School reunion for me... and it was, with a core of old Metalheads in attendance... So a shout out to Ray, DeVito, Steffan, Craig, Sven, John, Harold, and Paschke among others... It was also a chance to see members of the band's staff again, who are some of the nicest Music Biz people I know.

What? Oh yeah, the rehearsal was pretty much a Sausage Fest... Although there was one Hippie Chick who did the Deadhead twirl during 'Nothing Else Matters'... Oh, San Francisco... will you ever completely wash off the patchouli?

Despite all of the Rock Star action onstage, the biggest charge I got all night was recognizing legendary Rock photographer Ross Halfin as he worked his way around the stage doing his job. I pointed him out to Ray and texted DeVito and we all screamed like little schoolgirls over it. The Geeks shall inherit The Earth.

Scorecard: According to the Umlaut Archives, this was my 33rd time seeing Metallica and my 23rd visit to the Cow Palace dating back to the early-80's. Yes, I keep score... it's on an Excel spreadsheet... I think it's about 90% accurate documenting every concert I've attended since losing my gig cherry in 1978. The Geeks shall inherit The Earth.

Former customers of The Record Vault = at least 13 (including Metallica members).. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. As we exited the venue, a girl excitedly said to her friend "Ohmigodthatwasaonceinalifetimeexperience!!"... which reminded me just how jaded I am about Metallica.

It was ironic that the rehearsal came a day before my 45th Birthday.... Which means I've been following Metallica for almost half my life... and I'm fortunate to still have easy access to events such as this despite them being the biggest Rock band of their generation. Hmm, reality check. Hope I die before I get old.

"Drink up, shoot in, let the feelings begin.."

Fuck Guitar Hero! (Pic by Skychick)