Sunday, December 21, 2008

Don't Stop Believing

Metallica / Lamb Of God / The Sword
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA

December 20, 2008

When I was a teenager in the late-70's / early-80's Journey represented S.F. Bay Area Rock to the rest of the world; they were massively popular, headlined stadiums, and sold out arenas from coast to coast. Chicks dug the shit out of their ballad 'Lights' and some guys didn't mind them because Neal Schon was a pretty good guitarist. According to the RIAA, Journey has sold over 75 million albums worldwide. Also, Journey had a video game based on their exploits and in 2008 they had a Filipino guy singing.

Fast forward to the waning days of 2008 and Metallica represents S.F. Bay Area Rock to the rest of the world; they are massively popular, headline stadiums, and sell out arenas from coast to coast. Chicks dig the shit out of their ballad 'Nothing Else Matters' and some guys don't mind them because James Hetfield is a pretty good frontman. According to the RIAA, Metallica has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Also, Metallica will soon have a video game based on their exploits and their guitarist is half Filipino.

Am I saying Metallica and Journey have eerie similarities? Maybe..but who wouldn't want to see a knife fight between each band's departed members?? Jason Newsted vs. Gregg Rollie?! Cliff Burton vs. Steve Perry!? GAME ON, I say.. Discuss amongst yourselves.

What? Oh yeah...

For the record, Umlaut hated the new Metallica album 'Death Magnetic' when it came out... Hated it... Dismissed it. I still wasn't sold on the album even after attending the band's tour rehearsal in October. So what happened? To be honest, I don't really know.. other than one day within the past month I realized I was listening to 'Death Magnetic' all the time.. Weird.. but it's definitely riff-tastic.

Prior to the show, Timo and I fueled up at The Irish Bank where the waiter recognized us and said "Do you guys even need menus?"... and we didn't 'cause we order the same thing every time.. Metal. Our evening remained surgically precise as Will Call was absolutely painless; THANKS to Paschke and Wiig for sorting my +1.

We missed The Sword, but saw most of Lamb Of God's set. Umlaut likes LOG quite a bit, but it was weird seeing them playing on Metallica's in-the-round stage. The best part of their set was watching a young fan who was against the rail singing along to every song, even when a LOG member wasn't in front of her.. Metal... That kid is gonna be alright.

Seeing Metallica in front of a sold out hometown crowd is still just as cool as it was back in The Day; the overwhelming "local boys make good" vibe in the crowd is a rare thing. Straight up, I thought this was the best performance I've seen the band give since the 1991-92 Tour... On recent tours the band has seemed robotic and going through the motions onstage more often than not IMO. Tonight the band was loose and having a good time on their home stage, especially James. To paraphrase Journey: Don't stop believing... in The METAL. The setlist for those who care:
  • That Was Just Your Life
  • The End Of The Line
  • Creeping Death
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • One
  • Broken, Beat And Scarred
  • Cyanide
  • Sad But True
  • The Unforgiven
  • All Nightmare Long
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Blackened
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Enter Sandman
  • Last Caress
  • Whiplash
  • Seek and Destroy
Fave Moments: Saxon's 'Heavy Metal Thunder' blasting out of the PA leading into the houselights going off and the band's 'Ecstasy Of Gold' intro tape... The pummeling 'Creeping Death' > 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' > 'One' triumvirate of Metal... and then later 'Master Of Puppets' > 'Blackened'... Wow.

Also, the new songs were riff-tastic live, which was nice compared to recent tours when the new songs made me want to count the number of Slayer shirts in the crowd. OH! But the #1 Metal Geek moment was caused when Kirk played the beginning of 'Sails Of Charon' in his brief solo spot! You could hear the Old Metal types in the house screaming like little school girls... seriously.

It's pretty fashionable amongst my generation of fans to nitpick what Metallica does these days and, granted, they've done some lame things over the last 12 years (waging war on Napster, etc..)... but here in the 21st Century they seem to be trying to atone for those past transgressions... and I'd MUCH rather see Metallica selling millions of albums than any of the crap that the record industry is spewing out these days.

That being said, this was the 34th time I've seen Metallica since 1982 (Yes.. 34 times.. Umlaut is old..) and I realized just how jaded I can be about this band: During a blazing version of 'Master Of Puppets', with thousands of people going bonkers around me, my mind totally wandered and I noticed a guy on the complete opposite side of the arena who was wearing a Motörhead - England shirt; I felt like trying to get his attention and point out the Motörhead hoodie I was wearing. DUDE! HEY DUDE!! OVER HERE!

What? Oh yeah....

During the final encore ('Seek And Destroy'), and with the houselights on, the band dropped dozens of black balloons from the ceiling emblazoned with the Metallica logo. Evidently they are doing this at every show and, I'm sorry, but a balloon drop is more HIPPIE than METAL. They should at least have metal spikes on each balloon to make it more exciting. Oh well... Although the balloons became a mere footnote to the evening after the band and crew celebrated Lars' birthday early by assaulting him with shaving cream pies and silly string as the song ended. Funny.. Really funny, actually. You don't see Millionaire Rock Stars being humiliated in public very often.

After the encores, Paschke waved his Magic Laminate and Timo and I found ourselves at the after show "party".

Paschke waves his Magic Laminate

Long story short: Free food, open bar... 300 guests jammed into the arena's club.. 3/4 of the band showed up to get mobbed by most of the 300 guests.. Umlaut chatted with The Lead Guitarist for a tiny bit and interacted with The Bass Player for a wee bit.. To be honest, the high point of the "party" was being introduced to the band's private chef who had made all the excellent food. Metal.

I didn't do a merch audit for political reasons, but Rock Star sightings = Ted of Death Angel, Chris Isaak, and Mike Dirnt of Green Day. On the way back to the car, some pimply-face teenagers called us fags. Sorry, but I have to close with one more Journey vs. Metallica comparison: Each bands depiction of "The Road" in song and video:

Journey - 'Faithfully'
(click the title for the video)

Metallica - 'Wherever I May Roam'
(click the title for the video)

Both videos show each band aboard their private Rock Star planes, but I think Journey wins because of the insanely dramatic scene where Steve Perry shaves off his moustache, which symbolizes the personal sacrifices the band is making on "The Road". Discuss amongst yourselves. Bay Area Rock Stars... Is there anything they can't do? Don't stop believing... in The METAL.

Click HERE to see Ray's 'Tallica photos from the show.