Back in January, I had the privilege of seeing Metallica play live at Nassau Coliseum, my first time seeing the band perform. They didn't disappoint, playing a healthy mix of the best of their old stuff with songs from their latest album, skipping all the disappointing stuff in between. After their first five albums, things went downhill for a while, but they're starting to sound good again. It was an amazing experience, with lasers, pyrotechnics, and audience participation. When my friend told me they'd be playing again in November at Madison Square Garden, I didn't need to be invited twice. Though they sure don't show any signs of it, they are aging, so I shouldn't miss any opportunity to see them live.

It was nice not to worry about driving, to be able to take the train directly in. We had a group of about 10 people, but since seating was sold in groups no greater than two, we were somewhat spread out. Originally there was only going to be one show on Saturday, but once that sold out, a Sunday show was added as well, and that's where we fit in. We opted to go to a bar for drinks first and skip the first two acts, heading upstairs around 9 PM when it was almost time for the main event. I ended up sitting with some kid that worked for my friend's brother-in-law, and he spent most of the time talking about how his girlfriend had done “something”(I assumed cheated) but that he forgave her and didn't want to throw away four years together. She had taken him to his first rock concert and it stuck with him, and he hoped she would understand him taking his boss up on the offer to see Metallica when he had an extra ticket. Still, the kid ended up cutting out a little early so he could see his girl, and I ended up having a section to myself for a while.

At some point, a trio of drunk idiots came along, and one asked if the seat next to me was taken. My friend had texted me that he was going to join me but needed my seat number, so I told them it was taken. After a few minutes when no one took any of the vacant seats next to me, the trio returned, edging their way in. The guy next to me sported a Punisher t-shirt and looked a bit like Zaboo from The Guild. I held my ground, and decided to be a bigger drunk idiot, even though I'd only had five beers and they had a few hours to wear off by that point. I moshed. I threw my fists up in the air, in hopes that I might “accidentally” catch him on his unshaven chin. It was a fight for personal space that I was somehow losing. During one song I didn't recognize, I sat down for a bit to catch my breath. Some tunes, like Sad but True, sent me into an exhausting frenzy. And as good as the show was, it was simply a better version of the one I'd seen in January. The same coffins hung around the stage, with lights mounted on them as they moved. There were laser light shows and jets of flames, and even some of Hetfield's schtick as he addressed the crowd was the same.(“Oh, YEAH?! Oh....YEEEAH?”) So I didn't feel like I would miss anything if I sat down for a song or two. When “Zaboo” almost fell on me, I flat SHOVED him into his friends. “Sorry...” he murmured, regaining his balance, before sinking back into headbanging oblivion. Kids today. Ironically, one of my friends at work thought I'd be the youngest person at the show.

At the end, James teased us by pretending to remove his guitar. We'd boo when he lifted the strap off his shoulder and cheer when he put it back on. But we knew there would be encores as usual, from the Mistfit's Last Caress cover to Seek and Destroy, the ultimate anchor song. As black beach balls rained down on the crowd, I was overwhelmed by how awesome it was to hear Hetfield work “New York City” into the lyrics. It's a corny thing that bands do, and with that song they already have the word “city” in there, but for whatever reason it was great to hear. After two-and-a-half hours of nearly non-stop thrashing, the show was over, or so we thought.

With the house lights on, I could spot the rest of my party. They were actually in the same row, but four sections over. My friend had texted me their location during the show, but I was busy with my turf war for those last few songs. As I made my way over, I heard a commotion down below, and turned to see someone covered in whipped cream with paper plates stuck to him. As he wiped himself off, I saw it was lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. “You knew that was comin'” said Hetfield, grinning ear-to-ear. “It's close enough to your birthday.” And then, something I never, ever expected to happen occurred. The lead singer of freaking METALLICA led a packed MSG in singing “Happy Birthday”. You expect a Metallica show to end with Seek and Destroy, but this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime surreal experience. When else am I going to sing such a universal, tame song with thousands of people at the end of a heavy metal concert?

So, it was a fun night. Downstairs, the bouncer outside a bar stopped one member of our group from going in. “You've had enough.” was all the guy said to him. My friend stepped up, expecting an argument, and asked if he could go in to get his wife and her friend, who were seated a few feet away. “Yeah, go ahead, go get whoever you want,” said the bouncer, as though it were a non-issue. As several other people walked in without any problems, the banned guy stood with a look of disbelief and confusion. We couldn't figure out what it was about him that made the bouncer keep him out but let everyone else in. It was very odd, and a source for many jokes on the train ride home. I dozed a bit, and though there was talk of hitting another bar when we got back, everybody was tired and we soon went our separate ways. I was glad to have Monday off to recuperate, even if the sound of my old man with a leaf blower soon had me out of bed.

Metallica didn't disappoint. I might wait a while before seeing them again, since the shows were so similar. If another album comes out that I like, I'd definitely go, or if enough time passes that they switch up their set list a bit. My mom never liked that kind of music, always complaining that it “glorifies death”. She also asks if any bats' heads were bitten off or if people drank a bucket of saliva. I think she's thinking of Ozzy, and I'm not sure if any of that stuff happened or if it was urban legend. And while I found myself chanting “DIE! DIE! DIE!” with thousands of people during Creeeping Death, it occurred to me that, if anything, a rock concert is a celebration of life. Here are these guys in their 40s and 50s running back and forth on stage, playing and singing to the fullest extent, to a totally energized crowd. We were all very much alive, and making as much noise as possible to affirm that fact. And when you get past the coffin props and lyrics and look at things that way, suddenly it's very fitting to end the show celebrating someone's birth.


Anonymous Krispy said...

I'm glad to hear that the old farts still put on a high energy show. And the problem with the a--holes in the crowd hasn't gone away, either. Nothing can ruin a metal show like metal fans.

11/17/2009 5:31 PM  

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