Review – Metallica at GM Place, Vancouver, Dec 2 2008
– by Kate Reid
Planted onstage amidst rotating coffins and fiery pyrotechnics, James Hetfield tries to keep it real. He extends his tattooed arms out toward the crowd of burn-outs, blue-collars and agoraphobic basement-dwellers, and pronounces them all the fifth member of Metallica.
Selective memory can be helpful for the hardcore Metallica fan – for instance, it’d be nice to gloss over that whole Napster debacle – if the fans are the fifth member of the band, shouldn’t they get to hear their own music for free?
But that’s alright, Metallica has always been a band of contradiction. They rose to fame as the mouthpiece for the downtrodden, as the band the working class could rally around, so that when Metallica made it big, in a way, so did the little guy.
Fame and riches have since mutated the band into Some Kind of Monster – the title of the 2004 documentary, but also an apt description of the histrionics on display during the recording of the band’s 2003 release, St. Anger. The documentary itself is rife with contradiction – is the band’s public therapy session admirable or admonishing?
That said, there’s nothing classy about shit-talking and some decidedly uncool stuff definitely went down, but just when you’re ready to write Metallica off as a bunch of whining ninnies, the band goes and records a sweet cover of “The Ecstacy of Gold” – Ennio Morricone’s haunting track from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Metallica has been using the original Morricone track as the intro music for its concerts since the early 80’s, and Tuesday night at GM Place was no exception. Metallica’s career-long embrace of the Morricone recording may speak to the band’s self-awareness—in the film, the track is played over a graveyard scene, with Tuco scouring the site for the grave that holds $200,000 in gold coins.
Death and riches – that’s it right there – maybe if the band amasses enough wealth, they can hide from misery behind a wall of craptastic goods. The Some Kind of Monster documentary is an embarrassing testament to niggling criticism and petty jealousies – the Metallica guys aren’t busting their asses working manual labour jobs, but they’re still up to their eyeballs in the shit—it’s just that this time it’s their own, personal shit.
Regardless of the mess that is the Metallica legacy, you know it’s a good show when the guy beside you shakes out his ponytail and doesn’t tie it back up until after the last encore – an encore during which thousands of black, Metallica-stamped beach balls descend from the ceiling. Is a ball full of hot air an appropriate souvenir for a Metallica show? I’ll leave that for you to decide.