Unfortunately, I cannot say that I was around in 1986 to experience Metallica’s rise to great success; though I can say that I am a part of a generation where metal is consistently evolving, incorporating different sounds and elements to take music to innovative levels.
Just like the day that never comes, it seemed as though October 27th took ages to arrive. For years I have been watching Metallica documentaries, music videos and live concert clips that would thrill me to no end. I had always imagined myself seeing Metallica live for the first time, but I never knew when it would happen. Waiting for Tuesday night was worth it because the show was more than satisfying – it was phenomenal.
To be able to set the overall mood for a great show, you must have great opening bands. Toronto was in for a real treat to see Danish boys Volbeat and New Wave American Metal giants Lamb of God blast their high-energy sonic power into the audience.
Volbeat is a band that defies traditional metal, applying rockabilly and punk with expressive influence from Johnny Cash and Elvis. Lead vocalist Michael Poulsen (who also happens to share his last name with some of my best friends) takes charge of the band well, with vocals and guitar work that are energetic and precise. His vocal range reaches amazing heights as the band play tracks “Radio Girl” and “A Moment Forever” off of their second release Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil. They also perform a fantastic rendition of Jonny Cash’s “Sad Man’s Tongue”. Full of rhythm, heavy riffs and life Volbeat are successful in covering the classic track. Playing five songs in total, their set is short but sweet as the band showed confidence in their new surroundings and offered the audience a sample of something new.
Even though this was not my first time listening to Volbeat, it is certain that the Toronto crowd viewed them as an “unknown here – big back home” band”. I am positive they will rise from obscurity in North America soon.
As roadies quickly cleared the large rectangular stage, the seats and floor started to fill a little more as the next band to play has visited us many times before.
At this point in time, I’m already envisioning the whiplash that will greet my neck in the morning because I know that Lamb of God is up next. As the ACC lights turned down low, the graceful guitar work of Wrath’s intro “The Passing” began and attendees in every section held their lighters high.
By the time LOG started “In Your Words” it was inevitable that many tracks from Wrath will follow. Things got exciting as the band brought back older crowd pleasers from Sacrament, Ashes Of The Wake and As The Palaces Burn. As Lamb of God dedicated the moshpit favourite “Ruin” to Sam Dunn prior, “Laid To Rest” never fails to remind me of the opening titles in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. As for the infamous “Black Label” to close the set, crowd surfing and small moshpits would ensue to extremes.
Lamb of God never cease to exceed their boundaries when playing live. Their performance made me reminisce of the very first time I saw them, which happened to be my first real metal show way back when at the Kool Haus. Randy’s stage presence was full of raw power and all instrumentalists were spot on. Whether it’s the pummeling beat of Chris Adler’s drumset or Mark Morton’s intense solos, Lamb of God deliver their brand of pure American metal.
With both opening acts finished and the crowd anxious, the stage was being prepared for the band Toronto has been waiting on for the last few hours. As I sat patiently for Metallica’s set to begin, I looked back on my personal evolution through life, how metal has shaped who I am and what role Metallica played in the process. I then realized that their role was one of the most significant. Their metal may have had its ups and downs throughout the years, but their true fans have always stood behind them.
The venue was dark and classical music begins to play. Yes, it is Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy Of Gold”, the track Metallica has been using for numerous years to begin every concert. A piece of music that is so beautiful and victorious, symbolizing Metallica’s career from the humble thrash beginnings of Kill ‘Em All to today’s modern metal comeback Death Magnetic.
Suddenly, the most artistic array of lasers flashed rapidly about the ACC, with dry ice and all attendees applauding and cheering to no end. The biggest of the big four of thrash have finally arrived, opening with “That Was Just Your Life”. James Het provided us with some uplifting words of appreciation and the band rolled along into “The End Of The Line” and a superb “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. With serious pyrotechnics, Justice classics “One” and “Blackened” are exceptional as Metallica kept pushing through the set. It’s amazing to see the band jump around from every angle of the stage and play all of their tracks, both old and new, at blistering tempos.
Surprisingly, the sole track played from Master Of Puppets was the title track. I appreciated Kirk’s guitar solo on “The Unforgiven” as it is one of my favourite solos of all time. With five pieces from the Black Album, it’s no wonder that “Enter Sandman”, arguably Metallica’s catchiest song, received the best response from the audience, with James allowing us to sing along throughout.
As for the overall contribution, each band member had their own time in between a couple of songs to showcase each talent and it seems that not much has changed over the years. Audience interaction was consistent and James never failed to charm us with his magnificent stage presence that has taken him from small clubs in the Bay Area to stadiums around the world.
The encore was the most enticing moment of the show when the crew covered the Misfits’ “Die, Die My Darling” in true Garage Inc. fashion. Finally, to my enjoyment, old-school thrash is heard from Kill ‘Em All. “Motorbreath” depicts Metallica’s legendary experiences on the road before I experience the ultimate concert ending.
James Hetfield ordered the lighting techs to turn on all lights in the venue, in order for the band to witness their fans experience an absolutely crazy, precise and classic “Seek and Destroy”. I don’t think I have ever sung so loud or applauded so intensely at any other concert. Mid way through the song, black Metallica emblazoned beach balls were released from atop the stage. There must have been hundreds of them for people to pass around as most ended up on the stage.
In short, Metallica may not be for everyone. You may love them or you may hate them. Some that attended the concert may have been there to accompany a family member or friend and others may have gone in large groups. Whatever the case may be, it was a damn good show. No matter what age, ethnicity or gender, the lyrics and music of Metallica have always been able to reach an endless amount of individuals. If you believe that at one point Metallica sold out for the worse, so be it. But you can’t argue that they’ve failed at what they’re doing, because considering their career and longevity they’ll always be on top of their game.
The evening was unlike any other, and the concert cannot be compared to previous ones I have attended. The best may be yet to come, but as far as I know, Metallica reminded me of what it means to have fun, enjoy yourself, and live in the moment. In the words of Mr. Hetfield: “Toronto, this is your life”.