They pulled our strings and twisted our minds, but instead of smashing them, Metallica made our dreams come true.
TOWARDS the tail end of Wednesday night’s concert, my neck was sore from the head banging, my voice was hoarse from screaming, my legs were cramping up, and I couldn’t wait to go home.
Then, guitarist Kirk Hammett started playing the familiar intro for Nothing Else Matters, and at that moment, the enormity of it all hit me – THIS. IS. METALLICA.
And all of a sudden, nothing else mattered anymore, because sore necks, cramped legs and hoarse voices are mere piffles compared to the experience of watching the biggest heavy metal band in the world play in your homeland.
Stadium Merdeka has seen its fair share of iconic performances and events, and the Metallica Live In Malaysia 2013 concert there on Wednesday night has to rank among the best that iconic ground has ever seen.
Metallica is one of the biggest bands in the world, and Malaysian rock fans have waited 31 years for them to come here. When news got out a couple months ago that the band was heading to Singapore instead, there was a lot of wailing and complaining about how our neighbour across the causeway seemed to be getting all the great gigs. Then, out of the blue, came the glorious announcement from Galaxy Group that Metallica, yes, the Metallica, were going to stop by in MALAYSIA before heading to Singapore, and there was much rejoicing. Yes! Justice for all at last!
Slated to kick off at 9pm (opening act, local veteran metal band Cromok, was on hand to entertain early punters), Metallica caught everyone by surprise by starting their show 15 minutes early (is that also a first for Malaysia?), announcing their imminent arrival with The Ecstasy Of Gold (the Ennio Morricone score which they have been using as intro to their concerts since 1983).
Then, amid a thunderous roar from around the stadium, the light exited, the night entered, and the band took us off to heavy metal never-never land.
On stage, the four members formed a tight unit that combined James Hetfield’s mighty vocals, Hammett’s scorching guitar solos, the ferocious intensity of that beast of a bassist, Robert Trujillo, and the thunderous pounding of Lars Ulrich’s drums into one intense, fist-pumping, mind-blowing wall of supersonic sound.
“You want HEAVY? Metallica GIVES YOU HEAVYYYYY!” roared Hetfield midway through the show.
Even if you were not a heavy metal fan, it would have been hard not to get caught up by the fervour of it all – the head banging, the air guitars, the moshing, the singalongs, and the electrifying energy emanating from the four musicians who seemed to be doing their utmost best to upstage every single artiste that has ever been to Malaysia.
At times, it was almost as if they were trying to make up for the 31 year wait Malaysian fans had to endure for them get here by giving us the hardest rocking concert these shores has ever seen in recent times.
Most of their biggest hits – Master Of Puppets, Fade To Black, Ride The Lightning, One, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Blackened – were in the 18-song setlist, which included a three-song encore comprising Creeping Death, Battery, and Seek And Destroy. My only disappointment was that one of my favourite all-time Metallica songs was not in the list, but considering the entire concert lasted a solid two hours, they are pretty much forgiven for leaving out The Unforgiven.
One of my personal highlights from the show was the instrumental number Orion, which for me truly emphasised the skill, dexterity and intensity each member of the band puts into their music. Watching close-ups of Trujillo’s face scrunching up with intense concentration and Hammett’s fingers skilfully dancing across his guitar on the big screen, one can really appreciate just how good these guys really are at what they do.
And then there was Enter Sandman. Yes, it may be their most overplayed song ever, but if you haven’t heard it live, with over 20,000 fans singing and headbanging along, then you’re truly missing out on one of life’s most mind-blowing moments.
By the end of it all, the sore neck, the hoarse voice and the cramped legs finally took their toll on me. But as I staggered out of the stadium with my ears still ringing from the music and still buzzing from the experience, there was only one thing on my mind – that there truly is, only ONE Metallica.