When the tour was announced and I got to know of the UK dates, I wasn’t too keen on going[1]. Two months before the show, I had a change of heart and plunged into the depths of my shallow wallet to get a ticket to see Metallica for the sixth time. The band’s getting old, Ulrich now wears a cap – so, before the band does a Scorpions, I’d better check ’em out live. *koff*

The good seats on eBay, I think, came to about £200, so my “Whiplash Experience” ticket should be, err… well worth it. And I was right. I arrived at the arena at about half 5, there were long queues already. Arrived at the wrong entrance (there was a dedicated one for the enhanced experience tix holders), but thanks to the helpful arena staff, I got to the right place. Pretty much jumped the queue at the enhanced security[2], and was then given an orange wristband with a ‘tallica logo stamped on the wrist, and a goody bag containing a poster and a tour cap. I then had to descend down to the depths of the arena to arrive at the ‘Sanitarium Rubber Room’ (no, it wasn’t a strip club) where there was a buffet (didn’t partake in the food as I was already stuffed with nasi ayam), a bar, and the pièce de résistance of this experience – Metallica’s archival material being exhibited, from costumes/props worn on album covers/music videos, to gig flyers from way back in the 80s.

Within four large sets of drawers were handwritten lyrics by Jaymz, set lists, old cassette tapes – you name it. Scattered around the exhibit were also some actual grey flight cases with the Metallica stencil on them. Most importantly, though, the exhibit had their actual guitars and drums.

You could play Kirk’s KH-2 (nicknamed “Phoney”, serial number 001), Jaymz’s diamond-plated ESP Explorer “JH-2” and Rob’s bass (I didn’t take any notice of which bass it was… sorry!), all of which connected to a floor multieffects with headphones on, and there were other instruments you could pose with – a white ESP Snakebyte, Rob’s Warwick bass, Lars’ full orange sparkly TAMA kit from the Death Magnetic tour and Kirk’s ESP KH-2 Dracula. Unfortunately, as I was Billy No-Mates that day, I had to ask a favour from another fan to take my (bad) photo with Kirk’s KH-2.

In between all these gawking, I got to the special dedicated merch stand with no queue whatsoever and claimed my free tour T-shirt. Bought a couple more for good measure too. After spending about an hour in the Rubber Room, I headed up to the main concourse to get to my seat. Bloody steep staircase was just a right bastard to descend without handrails on. The seat was great, pretty much 8 rows from the floor and close-ish to the stage. Worth every penny spent!

The opener was Kvelertak from Norway. Didn’t know what to make of them, and since I have nothing much to say about their stuff, you prolly could just check them out on YouTube. All I was interested in was the band that was about to come up on stage at quarter to nine.

And then AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) came on the PA when the Metallica road crew were done setting the stage up, and the crowd went nuts. And just about crazier when the lights went down and Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold started to play, with images from the cemetery scene with Eli Wallach playing on the multitude of video cubes hanging over the stage in the round. As the recorded snare drum roll to the start of Hardwired was playing, I could see the band running through towards the stage to the resounding cheers of the audience. ‘talicca started the set strong with this, following up with Atlas.

To my surprise, Seek and Destroy was up really early this time. Next to me was this prim and proper-looking middle-aged couple which I felt were a bit out of place at a Metallica gig. Actually, there were loads of people like these – guys who looked like dads at a pub having Sunday lunch, in a collared shirt and a woollen Pringle jumper. Anyways, I swore she was singing along to Seek when they were playing this. You’d think it should’ve been her teenage/20-something daughter doing this. I know. I am no spring chicken myself, but I digress.

The set was looking to be more from Hardwired this time. During the Death Magnetic tour 8 years ago, I felt that they seemed to pander to the fans by playing a lot of old stuff and playing only a handful from DM. I wondered if that was to tell the fans that they were sorry for their St Anger/SKOM phase of their career. I did feel DM was kinda like them re-living how it was in their heyday of long songs and lots of riffs/solos. Not that I was complaining.

Talking about DM, the only song from that record was The Day That Never Comes, and following it were more new stuff. I have to say that I wasn’t all too impressed with that Siti Nurhaliza “hey-I-can-play-percussion” segment on Dead, though. ManUNkind had Jonas Åkerlund’s vids in the hanging boxes but without the gore. Or perhaps I was too busy watching the band on stage!

This was the fourth time I’ve seen Rob playing bass as a member of the Metallica, and despite how I’ve listened to their music with the likes of Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted playing – I couldn’t help it but notice Rob has pretty much melded with the other three so well that I can’t see him as that outsider anymore (blame it on the SKOM debacle). Watching him rip through the bass intro to Bell was just a sight to behold.

Jaymz was praising the audience about how the city responded positively to the unfortunate event that occurred in the very venue they were playing that night. Kirk and Rob even played to what was obviously the music to Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger and the whole arena sang the words. Nice one.

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Another memorable bit of the evening was some of the groundbreaking stage effects they had – they had lit up drones (I’ve seen this somewhere on YouTube but can’t remember who/what) flying in the air during Moth. Jaymz started off by lamenting that the song was alluding to drug abuse, and how despite some people (Jaymz gave Amy Whitehouse as an example) are lured towards it and ultimately having their lives destroyed.

As for the other random old stuff in the set, the Manchester gig had Stone Cold Crazy (I last saw this live 25 years ago in Newcastle) and Creeping Death. Although not listed, Rob played a decent chunk of Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)! The rest would be obligatory staples that I’ve heard in all the ‘tallica gigs I’ve been to since 1992. Two songs from Hardwired that had their recent debut in Paris and London were ManUNkind and Spit Out The Bone, respectively, were played in Manchester. Spit was played in the encore, which also had Nothing Else Matters and Sandman to call it a night.

Kirk didn’t play his battered black ESP KH-2 (did he retire the guitar?) and only brought out his ESP Mummy, White Zombie, cherry flying V and what I call his Barbie purple sparkly (like Lars’ kit!). He also had Greeny (the Gibbo Les Paul Standard that was once owned by Peter Green and Gary Moore) and his old Jackson RR for the downtuned Sad But True.

As for Jaymz, if I remembered correctly he played his ESP white Iron Cross, Snakebyte (white mainly, and the camo only for Sad But True), Vulture and black Truckster. Non-ESPs comprised his Ken Lawrence explorer and the white Gibbo flying V with the white EMGs. Interestingly, he played the Gibbo korina Explorer just like the one Kirk used in the DM tour – not sure if this was his own, or the one Kirk used.

As a band that has been around for more than three decades, Metallica could still pull it off – selling out arenas and filling up stadia. Interestingly, there was this Blabbermouth.net article that described A7X’s vocalist opining on how a large proportion of the audience at a Metallica show are likely to be casual listeners, aka people who start to listen because of the Black Album[3]. It’s only an opinion, although I sometimes wonder that too, but either way, this allows the band to pull in that number of people to watch their shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Black Album, although I have to admit I had listened to them in the days of Puppets, working through their back catalogue. So much so, though, I find myself listening less to them from St Anger onwards, which is probably a reflection of my apathy to pay attention to their current stuff because none of it excites me anymore, as compared to the days when I listen to that pirated Apache cassette that I bought in Seremban. One caveat I would add to that statement in that Blabbermouth article is that fans from outside the US and Europe, like South America and Asia who don’t get to see the band that often would come in droves to their gigs, and most/some of them would be genuine Apache tape listeners like myself. Look at KL, fans waited 36 years (and that is still my favourite Metallica set list ever, and I didn’t even attend the Stadium Merdeka show).

Anyway, I am not gonna say that this would be my last Metallica gig ever (I did think it, though). Just that as bands (and fans) get older, things can change. So, Lars – hope your knees can still take a beating doing those double pedals, and the same goes to Jaymz and your downstrokes, for the next 10 years at the very least. I may still watch your show for the 7th time then.

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All performance photos from the Manchester show are from metallica.com.
[1]My excuses – berapa kali mau tengok lah, Manchester Arena steps too steep lah, getting old lah et cetera.
[2]Following the incident in May this year.
[3]Kinda like those “Wow! Pearl Jam! I love their song, Last Kiss!” kind of people.