By David Farrier
American band Metallica formed way back in 1981 and went on to become the biggest metal act of all time.
In America alone they've sold over 52 million albums. They've got nine Grammies and have had five consecutive albums at number one on the Billboard charts.
And they're in Christchurch, two and a half weeks after a massive earthquake, on an originally unplanned pair of tour dates.
They answered the call of a local fan petition to get the band to play there ahead of their gigs in Auckland next month.
“There was a lot of talk of us not coming down here because of the earthquake and what not,” says singer, rhythm guitarist and Metallica founder James Hetfield.
“But Metallica is here to make some people smile, that’s really our mission you know. We come here, we give one smile, we get thousands back. There’s no better gig, ever.”
As with every Metallica show, last night’s concert began in darkness with the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly playing.
What made this show different was the fact it was in Christchurch and Metallica were there because of a fan petition.
There’s not many bands of Metallica’s calibre that would do that.
“You know what? There’s not many fans that would do that either,” says Hetfield.
“We feel pretty fortunate that we have some fans that would stand up and really live for Metallica – they’re flying the flag down here.”
“There’s a lot of pride and passion and we feed off that,” says bassist Robert Trujillo. “This far down in the world, you know, this far south, you get energy like that going you gotta follow it.”
At times the fans were flying more than just flags – including bare breasts. But if there was one thing on show last night it was the band’s rich history with songs spanning three decades.
“You look out in the crowd and you see it filled with 14-year-old kids and we’re going ‘Oh man! We’re going to have to come back here in five years’, and it’s great,” says Hetfield.
“It’s just another generation growing up and to span maybe a fourth generation is pretty amazing.”
When Hetfield formed Metallica he was just a teen - he's now 47.
“We didn’t think it would happen, but it was a dream,” says Hetfield. “Everything was a dream when you were a kid. You imagine yourself in a poster on the walls, like, ‘That’s gonna be me!’
“And you’re brother is making fun of you going ‘Yeah, right.’
The thought of Hetfield, a certified metal god, being teased, is pretty surreal.
“Yeah, but that was all fuel man!,” he exclaims.
Over the years Metallica have reinvented themselves – sometimes losing fans, sometimes gaining them – but that still equals a lot of fans around the globe.
“At the meet n greets I meet kids that are kinda saying, you know, ‘This is my first concert ever!’ like they’ve saved themselves for Metallica,” says Hetfield.
“It’s maybe a right of passage for some of these kids.”
Kids who like Metallica because they like metal – often really fast metal.
Trujillo is the newest member of the band, although he has been in it for over five years – the entire lifespan of most modern bands.
“Actually physically onstage the first time, within the first year that I started playing with Metallica, my knees blew out,” says Trujillo.
He is now the only bass player for Metallica who has performed with the band in Christchurch.
“We’re gonna get that earth shaking in the right way!” he laughed with Hetfield before the band’s debut South Island performance.