/ 29 April 2013

The old codger’s review of the Metallica concert

Metallica rocked Johannesburg at Soccer City.
Metallica rocked Johannesburg at Soccer City.

After the drunken debauchery that was the Red Hot Chili Peppers' concert earlier this year, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the Metallica concert this weekend had been organised by the Temperance Society.

Gone was the beer garden outside the main entrance and, consequently, most of the concert goers were dead sober when they walked through the gate.

Watch our slideshow of the concert

As was our luck, being plastered before the opening acts took the stage would probably have been the prudent course of action, given the talent chasm between the support acts and the headliners. And I am using the word chasm advisedly because it was larger than usual this time.

The first act, Chromium, consisted of four blokes: a drummer, a designated screamer and two posers. The posers seemed to have one position on stage: push your one leg as far back as it can go, thrust your other foot forward, and do your best impression of taking a dump onstage. I gather this is a well established pose in the metal community, but if you want to look like more than a statue, you really should move around a little more. The music, if you could call it that, involved some random thrashing at the guitar strings in time with the drummer, who at least seemed to know what he was doing, while the screamer stood at the back of the stage belting out lyrics that were entirely incomprehensible. He could have been vocalising the recipe for Tant Sannie se melktert and no-one would have been any the wiser.

I would like to give a full view of the second support act, Pestroy, but after the first one it was essential that we lubricated our shattered nerves and we went off in search for beer. We found it in a lounge/bar sheltered in the bowels of Soccer City, which looked very nice and you could buy hard liquor but only if you were willing to brave the most incompetent bar staff in the history of hospitality. Having procured the only beers left – Windhoek Light – we were treated to one of the bar staff dealing with the lack of bottle openers by opening our beers with his teeth. Our shocked looks must have given him pause for thought because he stopped after two bottles and we persuaded another gentleman in a waistcoat to open the rest in a more conventional manner.

We made it back to our seats just in time for the end of the Pestroy’s set and from the little I saw I can say that they are able to move around the stage at a rate of knots; I was able to understand roughly every second word in the songs; and they seemed to know how to use their instruments. Given the chance to see them again, I wouldn't immediately refuse.

We then sat around for what seemed like an eternity before the main act took to the stage. And when they did, everything else that came before was cleansed from my memory.

From the first note it was clear that this is a band who understands what it takes to put on a show. They know what you need to do to get the audience on your side and how to turn every song into a masterclass on the art of concert performance.

Not being a real Metallica fan – I was there because two real fans couldn't go and couldn't bear that their tickets would go to waste – I don't know all the songs they played and couldn't tell you what order they played them in. What I can say is that I stood up 15 seconds into the first song and didn't sit down until I collapsed onto the seat of the metrorail train on my way back to Park Station.

I shouted, I screamed, I shook my head in the way that is customary at these kind of concerts. I sang along when I knew the words and when I didn't, I didn't care because I was having such a good time. I especially loved it during The Memory Remains, where the band let the audience sing on for a good minute or more with just a drumbeat to keep everyone together. I had thought that they might end on Nothing Else Matters or Enter Sandman, but the encore was as rocking as the rest of the concert.

I thought it was going to be loud, but it didn't seem so until I got home and I realised my ears were still ringing. So I guess I was wrong about the volume. Perhaps they didn't turn the amplifiers up to 11 but it was close.

Close to the end of the show, they broke out the pyrotechnics and that, along with the massive video screens, were the icing on top of a great concert cake.

My enjoyment of a concert is often based on the level of interaction the band has with an audience. All too often there is little difference between going to a concert and watching a DVD of a live performance.

James Hetfield made us feel like we were part of something special on Saturday night and after the show was over and people were filing from the stadium the whole band was still on stage interacting with the people at the front of the crowd, throwing plectrums and drumsticks into the crowd and giving people far more than they paid for.

Bon Jovi is at Soccer City on May 11 and they will have to go above and beyond the call of duty to come close to the experience that the Metallica fans got this weekend.