Monday, November 16, 2009

Metallica with Lamb of God and Gojira

Time Warner Cable Arena
Charlotte, North Carolina
October 18th, 2009

The Music Binge was on the road again this week, this time coming at you from Charlotte, NC. I was visiting a buddy in the Queen City who managed to score some amazing seats for the Metallica big thanks to him! But before I get ahead of myself, Metallica had a couple of heavy hitters lined up to play in front of them, so let's get on with it.

This was my second Gojira experience and I have to say, I've been impressed each time that I've seen them. These Frenchmen play a brand of poly-rhythmic metal with lots of stops and starts, much like Meshuggah. Heavier than a loaded cement truck, Gojira took their best shot at caving in the relatively new ceiling of the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier, guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie did a great job of rotating around the massive "in the round" stage that had been set up in the center of the building's floor. With microphones set at all four sides and all four corners of the stage, the three bandmembers made sure to give each side of the late arriving crowd plenty of attention. All the while, drummer (and Joe's brother) Mario Duplantier sat center stage, pounding out the rhythms that were the backbone of Gojira's onslaught.

It was obvious that this was a special show for the guys in Gojira when Joe Duplantier informed the crowd that this was their last date on the Metallica tour. As if to commemorate the occasion, Randy Blythe from Lamb of God came storming onto the stage to lay down some impressive vocals alongside Duplantier. Gojira's vocalist showed his appreciation for being given such a prestigious opening slot by thanking each member of the legendary headliners individually. The crowd, which had filled in as the band worked their way through their half hour set, roared in approval when Duplantier announced that this was Gojira's first time playing in North Carolina. By the sound of it, you'll be welcomed back anytime Joe!

Lamb of God
As Gojira's equipment was removed, four carpets were laid down on the stage with Lamb of God's logo emblazened on them (no doubt to soak up the massive quantities of water that Randy Blythe would soon be dousing over his head) and the drumset that sat on a massive riser in the corner of the stage was unveiled. The biggest band of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal was up next and you could feel the anticipation in the air. When the lights went down, the boys from Richmond, Virginia hijacked the stage for 45 minutes of pure aural brutality.

I have to give it to Metallica, you must feel pretty comfortable with your ability as a live act to willingly follow a band like Lamb of God each night. Rolling through bludgeoning cuts like "Redneck", "Ruin" and "Black Label", the band simultaneously impressed and scared the shit out of the Charlotte crowd, who were primarily there to see Metallica and Metallica only. Unlike the guys in Gojira, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell were content to stand their ground on the stage focusing solely on the music, leaving the aforementioned Blythe to rotate around, spitting and spewing his venom all over the audience. All the while, drummer Chris Adler sat atop that huge drum riser, pounding the skins and showing off his impressive, chest-long goatee.

The highlight of the set had to be when Blythe reminded those in attendance that there are some of us who couldn't be here tonight because they're in a shitty place, doing a shitty job so that all of us could be here. He was of course referring to the United States Armed Forces as he dedicated "Now You've Got Something To Die For" to the members of the U.S. military. As if to punctuate the dedication, someone in the crowd held up a U.S. Marine Corps flag to which Randy pointed, all the while nodding in approval.

Like Gojira's vocalist earlier, Randy took time out during his band's set to thank Metallica for the opportunity to play on their tour. He also mentioned that the headliners paved the way for bands like Lamb of God. Listening to some of their more recent albums, it's hard to believe, but Blythe is right and it was a nice gesture for him to admit it. With that said, Lamb of God's set was proof that Metallica fans and metal fans are not one and the same. The crowd seemed shell-shocked by the harsh vocal style and non-stop abrasive attack of the band. Not this reviewer, I was left wondering if Metallica had a chance of living up to the two amazing openers they'd pegged for their own tour.

Now let me start out by saying that I'm no stranger to seeing Metallica live, so this wasn't a new experience for me. And quite frankly, I've had a sort of love/hate relationship with this band since their "Load" and "Re-Load" days of the late 90's. I realize that a lot of hard core fans think that Metallica died with the release of the "Black Album" and an even more hard core contingent actually think they died with the release of "...And Justice For All" (and to a greater extent with the release of the video for the song "One" off of that album).

Well I disagree with both factions and happen to like both of those albums (as a matter of fact, Justice is tied with "Master of Puppets" as my favorite Metallica album). However, I just couldn't get past the blatant change in both musical style and image that accompanied the Load/Re-Load era. So with all of that being said, I've ironically always had a problem with the fact that Metallica themselves tend to primarily focus their live performances on older songs (from Justice, Puppets, "Ride the Lightning" and "Kill Em All"), neglecting their newer material and ultimately (at least in my mind) admitting that they're days of making quality music are behind them.

So tonight, I fully anticipated more of the same from the Bay Area thrashers when they proceeded to take the stage to an impressive array of laser lights and promptly roll through two songs off their latest release, "Death Magnetic". I couldn't believe my ears! Then, three songs later when I heard the familiar machine gun fire that opens "One", I was shocked that the band's usual encore song was being played so early in the set. This wasn't the same old Metallica set at all!

Now let me get back to that love/hate thing. The poor guys in Metallica...they really need no introduction, but here it goes anyway; James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Kirk Hammet (guitars), Lars Ulrich (drums) and new guy Robert Trujillo (bass)...just can't win with me. All of a sudden I'm hearing these newer songs, which obviously proves that the band stands firm behind their latest opus, and I'm feeling disappointed! Here they are doing the exact thing that I typically accuse them of not doing, and I'm wishing for those old Metallica sets that shun the new stuff so that all us old school types can hear the songs we grew up I tell ya.

Make no mistake though, my disappointment was short lived. If you haven't experienced Metallica live, let it be known they are a consistently tight, accurate and precise beast...they do not miss a beat. And they are LOUD. The band either does not give their openers the same amount of juice, or the openers just don't have the sheer amount of equipment as the headliners, because the increase in volume was immediately ears were ringing! Metallica sounded soooo heavy during "Sad But True", I had to grab the railing in front of me to stabilize myself.

With all the requisite pyrotechnics, lighting rigs in the shape of coffins and a rotating drum set, Metallica were prepared to deliver a true rock show. Sprinkling in a couple of lengthy guitar solos by virtuoso Kirk Hammet, the band played a set heavy off their latest album "Death Magnetic" with favorites spanning their entire career making appearances throughout. Interestingly enough, the only albums omitted from tonight's set were Load, Re-Load and St. Anger...the three most criticized albums by longtime fans. Even two songs from the "Garage Days" cover album (Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" and Motorhead's "Too Late, Too Late") made the list!

By the end of the evening, when James Hetfield asked his audience if they'd enjoyed their night with Metallica, the resulting screams and cheers sounded like a resounding yes. It's obvious that these guys have cemented their place atop the metal heap for as long as they choose to stick around. Whether you love em or hate em...or maybe even a little bit of both, Metallica can still get you out of your seat with horns in the air. So when Hetfield led the crowd into the familiar chant along song "Seek and Destroy", there wasn't a vocal chord in the building that wasn't straining to join in...and I did my best to be the loudest. God I love these guys...until their next album.

Set List:
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Four Horsemen
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Sad But True
Turn the Page
The Judas Kiss
Guitar Solo #1 (Kirk Hammet)
The Day That Never Comes
Master of Puppets
Fight Fire With Fire
Guitar Solo #2 (Kirk Hammet)
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Too Late Too Late
Phantom Lord
Seek and Destroy

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