ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 28, 1992
You don’t have to be a big fan of Metallica’s furiously thrashy—albeit recently refined—sound to give the band credit for blazing a formidable trail since its inception in ’81. The group has always gone against the grain and done things its own way, riding the precarious rail between huge commercial success and strong identification with and dedication to its fans.
At Saturday’s (May 23) sold-out show—which was followed by a second date on Monday—I saw a number of things that surprised me. First off, there were the longest and loudest line-ups I’d ever seen outside the Coliseum. These folks were heavily hyped, but intelligent enough not to rush the too-few doors and make admission even more difficult.
And for the first time in nearly 20 years of concert-going, I saw official t-shirt vendors with their stands set up outside the hockey rink. Maybe it was greed that motivated that unusual move, but it could also be Metallica’s way of thwarting bootleggers and guarding their fans against cheap imitations.
Once inside, the surprises continued with a live video broadcast from backstage. Drummer Lars Ulrich managed to fend off the chummy distractions of his band-mates and send this message: “It’s Saturday night, and we’re gonna kick your fuckin’ ass!” That got the capacity crowd even more worked up, as did Ulrich’s threat that the band might just decide to play for five hours. (The show would actually clock in at closer to three hours, which proved quite all right.)
After a 25-minute documentary of the band’s history—with particular emphasis on the contributions of late bassist Cliff Burton—the familiar strains of the band’s big hit, “Enter Sandman”, heralded the arrival of the quartet in all their black t-shirt ’n’ jeans glory (except for the bare-chested Ulrich, whose shirt would only have gotten in the way of his furious percussion assault).
Ulrich actually had two complete drum kits—another first for these eyes—which would rise up from trap doors on either side of the stage. A few dozen lucky fans managed to score seats in the “snakepit”, an enclosure near the centre of the stage that put them right in the action and brought home the band/fan closeness that Metallica so successfully conveys.
Original ear-burners like “Creeping Death” and “Welcome Home Sanitarium” mixed with loose instrumental covers of ZZ Top’s “Tush”, Rush’s “Bastille Day”, and Deep Purple’s “Mistreated”, and while the music was loud enough to flake the wax from your ears, it was channelled forth so cleanly that there was no pain.
The great sound, lights, staging, pyrotechnics, and live video ended up giving the paying customers more than their money’s worth, yet another first from those awesome practitioners of the kill riff.