A METALLICA CONCERT HAS BECOME A CULTURAL EVENT
Date: July 16, 2017
Venue: Rogers Centre
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
As I made my way up to the nose bleed section of the Rogers Centre and into my seat, which was about ten rows from the top or highest vantage point from where fans could see the concert from, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Metallica that I discovered back in 1984 turned into the biggest heavy metal band in the world. So big in fact that just about any male friend that I spoke to about the concert seemed open to attending. Now as a Sleaze Roxx reader, you might find that completely normal but the reality is that I have a wide circle of friends with many who don’t listen to hard rock, sleaze rock, heavy metal, hair metal, or whatever you want to call the music that I grew up listening to as a teen in the ’80s. In fact, for one long-time friend visiting from Hong Kong, I had to double check to find out if he was really interested in attending. My exact words were, “Are you really interested in going to Metallica?” to which he responded in the affirmative. My friend never did make it to the concert but just the fact that he was seriously considering going, and had done as well when Metallica apparently played in Hong Kong earlier on, made me think that the Metallica juggernaut had gotten so big that attending a Metallica concert was now akin to attending a cultural event.
I clearly remember when I first heard of Metallica. I was taking the bus home from the high school that I had just started attending less than a month ago when I ran into a former classmate from my elementary school. When I graduated from grade eight, it seemed that my graduating elementary school class was getting split apart as we were all seemingly going to attend different high schools across the city. I ended up attending a high school that was about an one hour away (one way) via bus rides from my home. As I made the long bus rides to home one day, I ran into my former classmate Brian who was at least one year older than I and far more mature and experienced in just about anything than I was. As we began chatting, I must have mentioned to Brian what I was listening to these days. I didn’t have much of a collection at that point. I believe that I only had the following on cassette — Van Halen‘s 1984, Ratt‘s Out Of The Cellar, Twisted Sister‘s Stay Hungry and Mötley Crüe‘s Shout At The Devil. My collection was about to increase almost 100% as Brian suggested that I buy some blank tapes and he would provide me with a few additional bands to listen to. Eventually, I ran into Brian again on a bus on the way home, I handed him three blank tapes and the next time that I saw him, I headed home to listen to W.A.S.P.‘s self-titled debut album, Armored Saint‘s March Of The Saint and Metallica‘s Ride The Lightning.
At that point, I had of course no idea which songs from Ride The Lightning would one day be Metallica‘s concert staples. My favorite from Ride The Lightning was not “Creeping Death,” “For Whom The Bell Tolls” or “Fade To Black” but the fast and frenzied “Trapped Under Ice.” Metallica at this stage seemed to have a rather narrow group of followers consisting of mainly male teenagers and/or young adults. Funny enough, here I was almost 33 years later attending a Metallica concert in a venue with a capacity of 53,506 people. The amount of people attending the concert was simply astonishing to me, especially taking into account how there might only be a handful of people that might attend another concert on different night from a group playing similar music to the mighty Metallica. In addition, with the cheapest ticket going for (I believe) about $75.00 and some tickets easily costing a few hundred dollars, it meant that Metallica would likely easily be pulling off over $5,000,000 in gross ticket sales alone! What a difference 33 years makes or in Metallica’s case, seven years makes from 1984 to the release of their Black album.
This was my fourth time seeing Metallica after concerts in 1991, 1997 and 2009. Each time had been quite a different experience and this time out at the Rogers Centre would again be quite different. For one, the Metallica band members — frontman James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo — seemed like little specks viewing wise given how far that I was. Although Metallica had enlisted Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold to open for them, and I had intended on checking them out not being that familiar with either of them, life got in the way and I ended up only catching the last song played from Avenged Sevenfold. I can’t say that last song make much of an impression on me but it’s hard to gage a band’s performance based on one song, if that. What I definitely disliked was the “DJ” who was kind of ruining whatever songs were playing from the PA while Metallica‘s stage setup was being finalized. I had seen the whole DJ thing when Black Sabbath opted to have Andrew W.K. open for them when they reunited with Ozzy for their 2013 tour and I didn’t like it then and didn’t enjoy it on this night either. Just play songs from the PA system damn it!
I had bought a seat in the bleachers just in case that Live Nation wouldn’t grant Sleaze Roxx a photo or press pass for the event and sadly, the string of media pass denials from Live Nation towards Sleaze Roxx in the Toronto area continues to this day. Given that I was in a section 500 seat near the top of the Rogers Centre, it was a cool vantage point to appreciate the sea of people on the general admission floor. It was truly impressive and made me think how Metallica have come such a long way from the very heavy band that I was listening on cassette back in 1984. It dawned on me that Metallica had crossed over so many boundaries, and especially when Hetfield asked the crowd how many people were coming to see Metallica for the first time ever. The show of hands from Metallica concert newbies was quite surprising. Based on my vantage point, the show of hands from the newcomers and the large amount of young people in the audience, I would estimate that 40% of the crowd was attending a Metallica concert for the first time. Throw in that many of my non-heavy metal fans were considering going to see Metallica live and I can understand why Metallica are able to routinely play in 50,000 capacity stadiums.
Eventually, the lights went down and I got goose bumps at hearing the music to The Ecstasy Of Gold, which I didn’t know, but that apparently Metallica have been playing to open their concerts since at least 1983 (as per setlist.fm). Pretty cool! While I support established bands such as Metallica and Iron Maiden playing lots of material from their latest studio album — so that they can stay relevant and not do nostalgia tour after nostalgia tour like other bands such as KISS — I haven’t been able to get into Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Accordingly, I wasn’t keen or into hearing five songs from their new album. And they’re not short songs either! Metallica opened with “Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise!” but it wasn’t until they launched into “For Whom The Bell Tolls” that the crowd truly erupted. It was cool seeing so many people standing in the 500 section and headbanging to the latter song. The multiple mosh pits in different areas of the large general admission floor were funny to see. Next up was “Fuel”, which while a good song, shouldn’t be taking the place of a classic such as “Battery.” At least Metallica were playing something from Reload as aside from that song, the group’s four full-length albums — Load, Reload, St. Anger and Death Magnetic — immediately prior to Hardwired…Self-Destruct were bypassed or ignored.
Metallica performing “For Whom The Bells Toll” at Rogers Centre in Toront0, Ontario, Canada on July 16, 2017:
Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls WorldWired Tour 2017 Rogers Centre Toronto 4K UHD.
I have never really liked the track “The Unforgiven” from Metallica‘s Black album so was disappointed to have to hear it live. After a trio of Metallica oldies, it was back to the new album. The best part of the new song “Now That We’re Dead” was when Hetfield, Hammett, Ulrich and Trujillo each started playing a giant drum. We even got a drum solo from Hetfield confirming that he should keep his role as frontman going forward. The huge smile on Hammett‘s face (as seen on the big screens) spoke volumes about how much fun that Hammett was seemingly having during that section of the show. My favorite song off Hardwired…To Self-Destruct was next — “Moth Into Flame.” I suppose I like that one the most because I have heard it the most. I really should try to give Hardwired…To Self-Destruct another shot since I really do like Death Magnetic. Finally, after “Halo On Fire” was played, Metallica started playing what I assume the majority of the fans (including myself) wanted to hear, which is the classics!
“Hit The Lights” seemed to revitalize the large crowd. Hetfield asked the crowd if they wanted it heavy, which had the band jump into “Sad But True.” I wish Metallica would come up with more songs in that vein — songs that have a more melody to them without being “commercial.” “One” was quite spectacular with the giant screens showing marching soldiers who turned into marching skeletons towards the end of the song. I was really impressed with the acoustics inside the Rogers Centre. Although I was near the top of the bleachers, the sound seemed really good. I had previously heard that the sound left to be desired when Metallica had played the Rogers Centre more than 10 years ago in support of St. Anger. However, I found that there were no such issues on this night. The stage show was quite spectacular. Whatever was missing in terms of intimacy due to the large stadium like setting was kind of negated with the spectacular stage show, pyro and large flames — the latter of which I could feel the heat all the way from the bleachers. I was told by someone who was near the front that it felt like her arms were burning when the large flames would go off on the stage. Metallica closed off their set with three of their best songs — “Master Of Puppets,” “Fade To Black” and “Seek & Destroy.”
Metallica performing “Sad But True” at Rogers Centre in Toront0, Ontario, Canada on July 16, 2017:
Metallica, Sad But True, Rogers Centre, Toronto ON 7/16/17 Crowd was typical for Metallica – keep in mind while watching 🙂
The first encore of the night was a pleasant surprise as I wasn’t expecting “Blackened” to be played. The second encore was disappointing as I have never been a big fan of the ballad “Nothing Else Matters” which is at least better than “The Unforgiven” (which was unfortunately also played earlier on). The last encore was “Enter Sandman” which seemed to have everyone, including myself, singing along. Given the large crowd, I started making my way down the stairs during the last song hoping to hear one more encore (“Battery”) but that wasn’t meant to be. At the end of the day, the older Metallica albums and the latest one prevailed with two songs played from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All, two songs from 1984’s Ride The Lightning, one song from 1986’s Master Of Puppets, two songs from 1988’s …And Justice For All, five songs from 1991’s Black album, one song from 1997’s Reload and five songs from last year’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.
Overall, Metallica put on a good show. I would of course have liked to see them play in a more intimate setting but you can’t blame them for playing stadiums when they can seemingly sell them out. The payday for the band wasn’t bad either. If the cheap tickets were selling for about $75 each, I estimate that the average ticket price was $150. Assuming 50,000 people were in the audience, the gross ticket sales would have been $7,500,000. Throw in the merchandise sales and whatever else, and I have a feeling that the Metallica band members will find a way to keep touring well into their 70s.
Metallica’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
02. Atlas, Rise!
03. For Whom the Bell Tolls
05. The Unforgiven
06. Now That We’re Dead
07. Moth Into Flame
08. Wherever I May Roam
09. Halo On Fire
10. Hit The Lights
11. Sad But True
13. Master Of Puppets
14. Fade To Black
15. Seek & Destroy
17. Nothing Else Matters
18. Enter Sandman
Metallica performing “Enter Sandman” at Rogers Centre in Toront0, Ontario, Canada on July 16, 2017:
Metallica, Enter Sandman, Rogers Centre, Toronto ON 7/16/17 Crowd was typical for Metallica – keep in mind while watching 🙂 There’s security handling issues and a bit of chaos at times 🙂