Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Last Caress

Metallica / Machine Head
Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA
December 8, 2009

(color removed to make it harder for sneaky fucks to counterfeit)

This was Umlaut's final concert of 2009... #84 for those keeping score... which is an average of a show every 4.3 days.. which isn't bad for an Old Fart like me. Appropriately my final show of the year was Metallica. Long time readers of this space know what an amazing full circle of life year it's been for me with this band. For the newbies click HERE and HERE to read about it... Go ahead... I'll wait.

Also appropriately, my concert year ended with an old fashioned road trip with Umlaut Nation brothers Timo, Photo Ray, and Old Metal Tim... and in old school fashion Timo borrowed his dad's SWEET armored personnel carrier as he had back in July when we traveled into the dark heart of California to see Judas Priest at a county fair... EPIC... and, yes, we're mentally still 16-year old Teenagers. "Dad, can I borrow the car?"

The SWEET Armored Personnel Carrier

This was my 3rd visit to the Sacramento area for a show this year and my 2nd visit to Arco Arena. I like Arco Arena: It's slightly smaller than the other big arenas in NorCal that are commonly used for concerts (Oracle Arena in Oakland and HP Pavilion in San Jose) and its round configuration versus the more traditional oval shape of the other venues makes a difference. Because of its design, Arco feels more intimate despite the fact it holds 17,000 people... and since Metallica's stage was in the round that intimacy was magnified.

The show started early at 7:00pm so those other hometown heroes Machine Head were already onstage when we arrived... which was a bummer since I wanted to see them as much as the headliners. MH are one of my favorite live bands and it was weird seeing them on Metallica's in-the-round stage but they made the best of it. Unfortunately Robb Flynn's wireless unit for his axe had gone out so he was tethered to his amp via an old school guitar cable... and Robb looked like a pit bull on a leash trying to get away from his collar so he could run around. Born free, as free as the wind blows... Since today was the 5th Anniversary of Dimebag Darrell's death, MH busted out their cover of Pantera's 'Fucking Hostile' and did a Jaeger toast to Dime as well. Nicely done. Eventually, Robb's leash got the best of him and he ended up getting the cable tangled up on some gear, so he tossed the guitar down and did the final song without it and let Phil Demmel carry the axe duties. This was my 3rd time seeing Machine Fucking Head on this tour and it's pretty amazing that by the time they play their final show in Europe early next year they will have been on the road for almost 3 YEARS on this album cycle. MH are road dogs of the highest order who unabashedly fly the flag for Bay Area Metal. Dog bless 'em.

It's been awhile since I've seen Metallica 4x on a tour, actually 5x when you count the Death Magnetic tour rehearsal. At this point, I've seen the band so many times over the years (37x and counting) that for much of their shows I'm more interested in watching the production and the crowd reaction more than watching The Rock Stars... It's also gotten to the point now where I know what song is coming in the set by details such as what guitar Kirk is given by his tech (Black Jackson = 'Sad But True') or by what seemingly random guitar doodle Kirk or James play. Total Geek shit.

I have to say that at this point in my history with the band, my favorite part of a Metallica show is the moment when the houselights go down and their 'Ecstasy Of Gold' (For the newbies: From The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly movie soundtrack) intro tape starts... The fans know the intro tape as well as any of the band's songs and the roof is always blown off by the crowd reaction when those first notes start in the darkness of the venue. The band has been using that intro tape since practically Day One in the clubs and that connection to the past means alot to an Old Fart fan like me.. Tradition, man... Tradition.

Anyway, show highlights for Umlaut:
  • 'Fade To Black' performed with James alternating between an acoustic and electric guitar. The band has never performed it that way before. Awesome.
  • The part in 'Fade To Black' when Kirk goes into his solo and Lars steps up with the double bass. METAL.. I've loved that part of the song since the first time I heard the song in 1984...
  • Kirk had a problem with his guitar during 'Enter Sandman' but, in a display of why he's a true Guitar God, he casually walked to the side of the stage, took the guitar off and was immediately handed another one by his tech, and within several seconds (literally) he was back at the lip of the stage at his wah wah pedal and hit his solo in the song without missing a note. This all happened in a matter of seconds and I'm sure not many fans even noticed it. You do NOT learn that kind of musicianship by playing fucking video games like Guitar Hero.
  • Looking to my right during 'Nothing Else Matters' (still yawning... after all these years..) and seeing Umlaut Nation Metal brother DeVito standing 2 sections over from me... and both of us waving at each other and saying in that unspoken Old Metal Brother way that we were simply waiting for the next song.
  • Favorite songs of the set: 'Sad But True' and 'Breadfan'... Especially the opening moments of 'Sad' when Kirk bent the note before James started singing. As he bent the note and held it for a moment, Kirk leaned backwards... pointing his Black Jackson at the sky as a spotlight bathed him in Arena Metal glory... FUCK YEAH.. and the riff in 'Breadfan' is still total godhead. Budgie!
  • 'Fight Fire With Fire'... PYRO.... GOOD.

(Vid by Umlaut)

After the show we made our way to the designated elevator that would take us into the bowels of Arco Arena to the "VIP Club" for the obligatory After Show "wait and see what happens" tedium. It was your typical Arena Rock after show set up... snacks... drink tickets... bar.. standing around..

Joking aside, the best part of the After Show is that I met up with old friends and acquaintances to chat and catch up. At this point in my history with Metallica, going to their shows is very much like attending a high school reunion because I see so many people who I met back in The Day because of the band and there's a friendship and a bond there. It's pretty fucking cool.. and a shout out to John Marshall and to Paschke and his O.G. Trouble patch:

At one point a girl wearing a laminate came up to me and asked "Are you Brian??" and I said "Umm, yes.." and she said "Lars wants to see you.." I almost laughed out loud because that sounded funny (actually I think I did laugh out loud..)... and I wondered how Lars described me to her ("Go find the one Oriental Metalhead in the VIP Room...").... HAHA! Long story short, I was soon escorted to a dressing room where... I had a VERY nice personal conversation with The Drummer. I haven't had a mellow one-on-one conversation with The Drummer like that since The Reagan Administration; we used to bullshit like that all the time back in The Day, man. We chatted about life, the show, etc... but I was most impressed that he remembered my parents' house is in Sunnyvale. It was cool.. and say what you will about The Drummer... but I can't talk shit about him.

All in all, it was another FUN night in the land of Metallica. As I've stated in this space before, I've come to terms this year with the fact that Metallica are my favorite band... However, they are not my favorite band because I'm fanatical about their music... No, they're my favorite band simply because I have so much HISTORY with them... and they acknowledge that history and their organization goes out of its way to do stuff like calling to see if I want to attend a show. Remember, they're now in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and they are basically the Led Zeppelin of their generation... The fact that they still give me the time of day is pretty fucking amazing to me.

Anyway, it was another successful 180 mile round trip for Metal... On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... which makes sense I guess. THANKS to Timo for driving and to his dad for allowing us to borrow his SWEET armored personnel carrier... and so another year of concerts comes to an end for Umlaut. See y'all in the pit next year.

"Exit light, enter night..."

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's pics from the show!