Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 3D Horsemen

Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada
August 24 & 25, 2012

Honesty is my only excuse: Over the past 3 years Metallica have become my favorite band again. I won't bore you with my reasons, they just are... again... after 30 years of following them. Anyway, the band recently played 12 shows in Mexico City and Canada (in Edmonton and Vancouver) that featured their new massive, multi-media, ginormous, bigger than any Metal show ever stage and production. It was also announced that the Vancouver shows would be filmed for the Metallica 3D movie (which reportedly will be their version of The Song Remains The Same). To spice things up even more, a week before the 4 Canadian shows Metallica posted this message on their website:

This will be your last chance for several years to see 30 years of Metalli-madness in the full-on massive show that debuted in Mexico. After Vancouver, it all goes in storage!

So basically Metallica had paid for a multi-million dollar stage that they were going to use for only 12 shows! Insane what Rock Stars with the means can do, right? Long story short, on the evening of August 23rd Umlaut found himself arriving in the foreign land called Canada. It had been 3 years since I was last there and I was reminded how "American" Vancouver seems until you start noticing the little differences. I actually forgot I was in Canada until I overheard people using the metric system in a conversation. The metric system!? So did that mean Metallica were going to play an 8 hour set in American time?? I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

Friday Night #1:

The following afternoon I headed down to the venue early in case I had any Guest List drama. If only all concerts were this easy:

All Access

Plastic makes everything better and I ended up having an astonishing amount of adventure as I freely wandered the bowels of Rogers Arena before the show. It felt like I was on the Yellow Brick Road of Metal in the hallways as I kept running into situations and people who made the time feel larger than life. Long story short: I had the longest and most meaningful conversations with The Lead Guitarist and The Front Man that I've had in years. I met Goat Boy. I also ran into the filmmaker responsible for the 'Fight For Your Right To Party' video; his latest project is a documentary on Metallica's 3D movie project. After chatting for a bit he insisted that he should interview me for the documentary... Ooookaay. More on that later. My pre-show wandering ended with an astonishing aerial view of the monstrous stage from the 5th level VIP bar:

Yes, that is the fucking stage. I'm not going to go into too many details about it because you can look that stuff up on the Metallica geek sites on the Internets. All I will say is that no words, no YouTube videos, and no photos can do the production justice. It was next level stuff and basically the Metal version of The Wall. It was completely mind blowing and to top the night off I sat next to this kid during the show:

Cliff Ink

"Bass solo. Take one." Then less than 24 hours later it was...

Saturday Night #2:

Being able to see Metallica's massive production again was something I did not take for granted. The second day was basically a repeat of my first day, as I arrived at the venue early and found myself wandering the hallways again, this time to meet my filmmaker friend: Adam Dubin. I had met Adam back in 2009 at Metallica's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and it was cool he remembered me.  Then this happened:

In the Makeup Chair

Ready for my closeup

On camera

Long story short: I was interviewed for the documentary footage about the making of Metallica's 3D movie. The documentary crew has been following the project since the stage was only some sketches on paper. I chatted at the camera about the band's early days and my thoughts about seeing their multi-million dollar stage spectacular with the perspective of having seen them in the last century on the stages of shitty clubs with a plywood drum riser. We'll see if I make the final cut!

After washing off the makeup I found myself standing in a hallway next to some Metallica road cases being alternately interrogated and entertained by *that* photographer who took all of *those* photos of all *those* bands. It was a rather surreal experience to say the least. The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, man.

Fast forward to just before Metallica were due to take the stage and I found myself sitting in a luxury box with the sweetest unobstructed view of the stage possible.  Besides that, the same film crew who had done my interview earlier in the day were on the camera next to where I was sitting. Then this happened:

I wish I could remember the names of the camera and sound guys because they were really cool dudes and gave me an interesting behind the scenes perspective on what was going on with the 3D filming. There were eleven 3D cameras being used including 2 on wires that soared over the stage like those used by the NFL above the field during games. Also, the rigging above the stage was the largest EVER used for an indoor concert stage. I should have taken notes because there was other trivia that would be interesting to share here... Oh well.

As you can already guess I'm not really gonna rant about the actual concert. You can find all of the details on The Internets about these shows. For me the weekend was a complete sensory overload of insanely cool experiences, mind blowing technology, and a pair of the best live performances I've ever seen Metallica give. The 2nd night was especially great.

The view from the luxury box

Because the shows were being filmed for the movie the same setlist was played both nights, but the 2nd night was more dialed in and the band performed at an even higher level too. As far as the setlist, 'Creeping Death', 'Fuel', 'One', and 'Master Of Puppets' were my favorites. However, there is one production detail that I do need to rant about: They had 4 massive Tesla Coils that were lowered above the stage to produce real LIGHTNING BOLTS during most of 'Ride The Lightning'!!

"Flash before my eyes.."

REAL LIGHTNING BOLTS!!! Holy shite!!! It was a trillion miles away from the shitty smoke machine that Metallica used at their earliest shows; that smoke machine would leave me with a cough for 3 days. Jaded Metalheads can talk shit about Metallica all they want, but the band has gone to the next level here in 2012. No other Metal band can touch them when it comes to larger than life shows... and if you don't believe me wait until the Summer of 2013 when the 3D movie hits theaters.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention THE most Old Metal moment of the weekend! As I got settled into my seat I recognized a familiar face from the earliest days of the original Metal Scene: My old Vancouver penpal Gerald (Who happens to appear in Murder In The Front Row on page 113!) was sitting a mere 2 aisles in front of where I was sitting! What were the fucking odds that his reserved seat would be RIGHT THERE in front of me out of 18,000 people?! The Metal Godz work in mysterious ways. It didn't end there: Right before Metallica lurched into 'Sad But True' my old buddy Gerald took the opportunity to climb up to the luxury box to hand me his copy of Murder to autograph! What. The. Fuck!? I'm not even going to ask why he had his copy of the book at the show... along with a Sharpie.

It was such a completely RANDOM encounter that was also so METAL. Another amazing moment out of many that I experienced in that foreign land called Canada.

If you bought one of every Metallica merch item you would have paid around $500 in Canadian play money. On the way back to the United States, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag, Eh? Although Vancouver is a charming city it was disturbing to discover that, even in Canada, hipsters wear Death shirts. Sad but true.

Photos courtesy of Cable Car.