By Daniel Rutledge
:: CBS Canterbury Arena, Christchurch
:: September 21, 2010
Metallica playing in Christchurch for the first time ever, as a late tour date addition after a fan petition, after an earthquake wreaked havoc on the city… there was no way this wasn’t going to be an epic night of metal.
And it sure was.
The crowd was energetic, the venue was great, the band performed extremely well and covered a decent range of their fan favourites.
I attended the concert with 3 News pop culture reporter David Farrier, a big fan of Metallica. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“The set had something for everyone, unless you were a fan of St Anger and I don’t think anybody in Christchurch tonight was.
“The band was just really into it and almost didn’t want to leave the stage at the end, staying for ages to chuck stuff out to the crowd.
“Lars was particularly excitable, often emerging from behind his drumkit to dance and mimic and prowl about, seemingly drawn to the crowd. The band are not showing their age.
“Rob was the main delight for me tonight. Considering he’s the new guy, yet he’s been in the band for over five years - longer than the lifespan of many of the popular bands of ‘now’. That’s choice.”
The choiceness started with the warm-up bands, although I missed nearly all of their efforts. I caught the tail-end of Fear Factory who were really quite good and, despite their own length of time as metal hitmakers, behaved like a very respectful support group.
They were amping the crowd up for Metallica in between songs and even busted out the beginning of Metallica’s first ever recorded track, ‘Hit the Lights’, which went down an absolute treat.
There was a huge amount of excitement in the arena as the time drew nearer and nearer for Metallica themselves to come out. One young lady expressed this by climbing on a man’s shoulders and
baring her breasts at everyone nearby – a trick she repeated over and
over again for the rest of the night to great applause.
There were lights on the whole crowd, giving us a view of the massive amount of South Island metal fans out to celebrate their musical heroes. There were a few fairly aggressive mosh areas including the dreaded circle-mosh, but fortunately I didn't see an actual fight the whole night. That may have had something to do with the copious amounts of pot smoke that constantly drifted about the arena...
As they have done since the mid ‘80s, Metallica took to the stage to entrance music taken from film The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Hearing ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ come out of stadium speakers as a Metallica fan is about as exciting as life can get – it’s the soundtrack of millions of people’s dreams coming true.
To be in Christchurch the first time it happened there was very special indeed, something you kind of had to be there to get an idea of.
The opening track was the first track off latest album, Death Magnetic, 'That Was Just Your Life’, played with the lights out and some powerful lasers working the room. "This is your life, Christchurch!" frontman Hetfield bellowed as the track finished, stage lights came out, the crowd went wild and the band jumped straight into another new hit, ‘The End of the Line’.
Watch footage of these first two tracks and a snippet from before Metallica came on-stage (contains nudity).
After this, frontman James Hetfield spoke to the audience, saying something like: “We’re here to make you feel good tonight. And you feeling good makes us feel good. Here’s some old stuff for ya!”
That was the queue for 1984 anthem ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, which was probably the best track of the night, then late ‘90s ripper ‘Fuel’, then first lighters-in-the-air number ‘Fade to Black’. Metallica are one of those bands whose fans enjoy pretty much every track they play live at a level most bands reach only with their major hits. To hear these three in a row drove the old school fans into some kind of ecstasy.
“Please don’t throw stuff at us, it just makes me play worse… if that’s even possible, ha ha!” Hetfield had to tell the audience after one of these songs, however. Which is really shameful. Who the hell throws stuff at James Hetfield when he’s performing in Christchurch for the first time ever?
'Broken, Beat and Scarred’ came next and was dedicated to the guy who started the petition to make the gig happen. Hetfield talking about this brought more cheering and clapping.
Then there was an old, old track, off the first album, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise. ‘No Remorse’ is not often played live any more and the Kill ‘Em All classic was a real treat.
I haven’t listened to the Black Album much in recent years as it’s just not as good as the ‘80s stuff, but when the massive, killer riffs of ‘Sad But True’ kicked in, I went nuts. “Do you like your music heavy?” Hetfield asked the crowd before blasting it out. I had really forgotten just how heavy that bad boy sounds live. Sure, it’s not very fast but, boom! It’s great.
Master of Puppets thrash ballad ‘Sanitarium’ followed, along with new speedy number ‘All Nightmare Long’ before the huge, superb ‘One’.
Following that huge hit from the Justice album was a monster from the album before, one of the biggest metal anthems ever – ‘Master of Puppets’. The opening riffs sent yet another wave of frenzy through the audience.
Now there’s something about Kiwis that became apparent during this classic track. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s something to do with the same thing that makes us often not react as obviously and boisterously as Americans when stand-up comedians perform.
At the slower, duel guitar section, the most memorable part of the song, Hetfield urged everyone to vocalise along with the guitar lines. Fans who have watched recent Metallica live DVD releases know that French, Mexican and Spanish crowds are quite into doing this and the room booms with their voices, but New Zealanders just don’t do it with the same conviction. Anyway, the song is an absolutely brilliant one and it went down a treat all the same.
That was followed by Puppets album opener, the fierce thrash assault of ‘Battery’. Probably the fastest track of the night, along with ‘Whiplash’, this was definitely one of the most exciting.
The band then slowed things right down with ‘Nothing Else Matters’, which started with an extended intro from Hammett before Hetfield joined in and sat on a stool. Trujillo and Ulrich both eventually joined in and built the song to a rousing conclusion.
It ended with Hetfield on his knees, back to the crowd, near the back of the stage. As the finish of ‘Nothing Else Matters’ faded away into guitar feedback, Hetfield dropped a very special riff.
That riff is the central element in what has been voted by The Rock listeners as the greatest song ever made.
That song is ‘Enter Sandman’, and you can probably imagine just how mental it made the crowd go. Wow.
There was then a short break, which was broken by the opening tune of ‘The Frayed Ends of Sanity’. As with the crowd participation section in ‘Master of Puppets’, the Kiwis didn’t really add enough voice power to make this intro work as well as it has overseas, but that was soon made up for with the song that was played next.
It was the one single cover the band performed at the concert, one favoured by Metallica fans for year’s – Queen’s awesome ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, which was brought to an abrupt finish as the band dived straight into early ‘80s thrash anthem ‘Whiplash’.
This was perhaps the biggest delight for people who have been fans of the band since their No Life ‘Til Leather demo days. It’s amazing these aging rockers can still perform such fast, brutal thrash metal, especially Lars who must have bionic arms to do it after nearly two hours of playing already.
Which of course leads us to the final song of the evening, also off Kill ‘Em All, the classic sing-along ‘Seek and Destroy’.
Shortly after the song began, huge bags opened on the ceiling and dropped large black inflatable balls onto the audience – with Metallica written on them, of course. These were bounced around and almost all ended up on-stage, causing the band a lot of difficulty as they each had to kick them away as they performed their last track.
It was quite a hilarious end to the music.
Immediately after the final notes of ‘Seek and Destroy’, as is their standard now, Metallica leapt straight into the a few lines of the catchy riff of ‘Wasting My Hate’ which was a nice snappy way to wrap things up.
As Farrier commented earlier, they then hung about on-stage for around seven or eight minutes, throwing guitar picks and drumsticks out to fans and really going to great lengths to show their appreciation for the turnout.
It was actually quite a touching finish. Not only would other massive bands like U2, the Rolling Stones etc not bother to do a fan gig like this in the first place, even if they did they wouldn’t stick around so long at the end giving so much back to the fans.
An epic finish to an epic night.
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And now for a bit more of a breakdown on what tracks were played and some that weren’t.
Below is a list of all the songs Metallica played at their first ever Christuchurch gig, in order of the albums they appeared on. The number in brackets is where the song came during the set (1 being the first, and 18 being the last).
Kill ‘Em All – 1983
’No Remorse’ (7)
’Seek and Destroy’ (18)
Ride the Lightning – 1984
’For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (3)
‘Fade to Black’ (5)
Master of Puppets – 1986
’Master of Puppets’ (12)
’Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ (9)
…And Justice For All – 1988
Metallica – 1991
’Enter Sandman’ (15)
’Sad but True’ (8)
’Nothing Else Matters’ (14)
Reload – 1997
Garage Inc. – 1998
’Stone Cold Crazy’ (Queen cover) (16)
Death Magnetic – 2008
’That Was Just Your Life’ (1)
’The End of the Line’ (2)
’Broken, Beat and Scarred’ (6)
’All Nightmare Long’ (10)
There are a huge amount of tracks they could’ve played and didn’t, but that’s how it goes for a band with such a massive back catalogue. The most sadly missed numbers (for me) that didn’t quite make the set-list include: ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Blackened’, ‘Fight Fire with Fire’, ‘Am I Evil’ and ‘…And Justice For All’.
Here’s hoping they cover all those and more at Auckland next month.