Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Friday, March 26, 2004
General Motors Place
Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

Review and live pictures by Lord of the Wasteland

It had been 15 years since I last saw the mighty Metallica live. It was back in June 1989 on their landmark …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL tour in Calgary, Alberta (with The Cult as openers?!?) and they raised the bar for what I expected out of a concert. As the years passed and the band moved away from their thrash/speed metal sound to a more commercially-friendly one, I still bought the CDs but never paid much attention to when they would come around on tour. Even last year's Summer Sanitarium tour with Linkin Bizkit and Limp Park (ed. note: resisting urge to vomit...can't even spell band's name properly in case a search engine things this page is about those shitty bands) kept me away for obvious reasons. The band had just released the controversial abomination, ST. ANGER, and despite all the bitching and cries of "Metallica is dead," they still managed to sucker 4 million people into buying it. Maybe it was the denial that it couldn't possibly be that bad or maybe just morbid curiosity, but I was one of those 4 million. Even after a good dozen spins, it just doesn't stick with me. It was because of this I suppose that I didn't get too excited when the band first announced way back in December that they would be coming to Vancouver in March. Despite a better opening band-Godsmack-I still wasn't too excited about dropping $50-95 on a ticket. As time passed, I kind of forgot about the whole thing.

However as the show neared and I heard the buzz about a "classic" setlist being performed, my interest was piqued. I saw such oldies as "Jump In The Fire," "The Wait," and "Dyer's Eve" being dusted off and played again. The focus was steered away from the band's newer material, I suppose, to appease the fans who lashed out at the band for ST. ANGER and other missteps such as the symphony record and the LOAD and RE-LOAD albums. This tour (dubbed the Madly In Anger At The World Tour) reminded me of what made Metallica great: the music. At the very last minute (literally the day of the show), I somehow managed to finagle my way into the show with a photo pass (thanks to Erin at House of Blues Canada), too. Despite some hard-nosed coercion of EvilG and whether or not Metallica still deserved to be on Metal Rules was fought tooth and nail to the bitter end, but as you are about to read, they got the thumbs up!

Most of the shows that I end up going to are at The Commodore Ballroom, a 1,200 capacity club in downtown Vancouver. That is all that is required because sadly 20,000 people do not go to see a show with European underground metal acts on the bill - not in this country anyway. The mammoth show that Metallica brings to town requires much larger quarters and so General Motors Place, a 20,000-seat arena, was booked. It is normally home to the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and really big acts that come through Vancouver. Seeing the backstage workings of such a production is really eye-opening. There were hundreds of people madly scurrying past case after case of equipment used to fuel this massive spectacle. Food tables, doctors, masseuses, roadies, groupies…it was a sight to behold! The small group of fellow media people who were there to cover the show gathered in a backstage area as we awaited Godsmack's set to finish. I was disappointed I didn't get to see them, but it was a small price to pay for what was to come. As 8:45 neared, we were hustled out of the belly of the beast and into the heat, sweat and madness of a sold-out show. As my fellow photographers and I positioned ourselves around the massive "in the round" stage set-up, I looked around to see what the band would be seeing shortly: 20,000 people that were rabid to see Metallica. The energy in the air was electric. You could literally feel the anticipation. Chants of "Metallica…Metallica" echoed through the walls. I even saw my first wheelchair-bound crowd-surfer get passed from several rows back to the front of the grimacing security personnel.

At almost exactly 9:00, the lights lowered and out of the darkness came the familiar opening of every Metallica show, Ennio Morricone's haunting instrumental, "The Ecstasy of Gold, from the Clint Eastwood film, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. With that, the band launched into a 20-song set beginning with a blistering version of "Blackened," as they circled the enormous stage never staying in one spot for longer than a few seconds. Lars Ulrich's drum kit rotated around the stage as the show progressed to allow the entire crowd to witness his still impressive skin bashing. New bassist, Robert Trujillo, is an absolute madman on stage, stalking the audience with his bass. Kirk Hammett has not changed in the least and despite being 40 years old, he doesn't look a day over 25. His solos are as tight as ever, especially on "One" and "Master of Puppets." James Hetfield is still the charismatic frontman and though his voice has certainly tamed in recent years, he can still belt out "Creeping Death," "Battery" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" with full force. His rhythm guitar riffs are also just as mighty as ever. The band didn't leave a stone unturned and every single Metallica album was given a nod, even the S&M album ("No Leaf Clover" and "I, Disappear" from 2000's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 soundtrack. Only 2 songs were played off of ST. ANGER ("Frantic" and the title track) and out of the 20 tracks, only 6 were post-BLACK ALBUM material. "One" featured an intro from Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film, FULL METAL JACKET, and enough strobe effects and explosions to induce a panic attack. "Sad But True" got the crowd singing along as the band actually stopped playing while the fans sang the verses for a minute! James introduced the band before launching into "Last Caress" with "While I'm up here, I've got something to say…"

All of the action could be seen on 6 giant video screens with cameras positioned mid-stage and on the musicians' instruments and mike stands. The pyro and light show the band brought along is something else. The heat from the fire that blasted out of the stage during "Fuel" nearly singed my eyebrows off and the explosions that were used during the build-up to "One" were deafening.

The rumors were true as the classics were brought out, with "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "Jump In The Fire" being the more obscure. I had read that "Dyer's Eve" was being performed live for the first time ever, but not at this show. The band had rehearsed 40-odd songs for this tour and was rotating a few of the tracks from show to show. I was curious why "Seek & Destroy," "Fade To Black," "No Remorse" and "The Four Horsemen" were not played in favor of "No Leaf Clover" and "I, Disappear," but they are on the list of possibilities, so depending on the night, they might be playing one or even all of them.


The Ecstasy of Gold (Intro)
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Kirk's Solo
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
King Nothing
No Leaf Clover
St. Anger
Sad But True
Creeping Death


First Encore:
I, Disappear
Nothing Else Matters
Master of Puppets
Enter Sandman

Second Encore:
Last Caress
Jump In The Fire


To anyone reluctant to drop their hard-earned cash on a ticket for this tour, don't be. You will not be disappointed. The inclusion of some rarities and less emphasis on the newer material coupled with the fact that the set changes nightly, is testimonial that Metallica is listening to what the fans want. This is an amazing show and you get over 2 hours of Metallica, so if you're an old fan, a new fan, or even a casual fan, indulge yourself for a night in the hands of the mighty METALLICA!!!!!!!!