See more of our Metallica Week coverage:
Dec. 5, 2011
Better than: What would've happened if Garage Days and Some Kind of Anger were part of the same project.
All this week, Metallica is celebrating 30 years of being the Bay Area's premier purveyor of headbang-inducing thrash metal with a special series of fan-club-only shows at the Filllmore. Last night, the first show of the series more or less lived up to its for-the-obsessives billing: It was three hours of trivia, nostalgia, and cover bands, capped by another three hours of Metallica doling out its trademark brutality -- plus lots of chatter -- alongside a roster of guests that included former bassist Jason Newsted, the cello metal group Apocalyptica, and members of Metallica-influencing British heavy metal bands like Diamond Head and Saxon.
Metallica is not simply booked to play the Fillmore this Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. It has rented out the classic San Francisco venue, and more or less completely taken it over. Nearly all of the concert posters adorning the walls are either covered over or replaced by one in a series of portraits of the Metallica members (including former bassists Newsted and the late Cliff Burton). Upstairs, a "Metallica Museum" occupies part of what is normally the Fillmore's lounge, displaying original album artwork as well as notable instruments from the band's early days. (The double-necked guitar James Hetfield was playing during an injurious 1992 pyrotechnic malfunction is one highlight.)
Even last night's music began offstage: At around 8 p.m., a shrill blast of trumpet emanated from somewhere in the half-full ballroom, while many fans were still waiting to get inside. It was New Orleans' Soul Rebels brass band issuing "Seek and Destroy," and beginning a short set of jazzy Metallica covers -- by far the evening's funkiest moments. Afterward, the actual members of Metallica came out and introduced the night's MC, comedian Jim Breuer. Through two rounds of trivia, featuring six different Metallica fans from locales as diverse as Brazil, France, Denmark, and the Bay Area, Breuer managed to make fun of them all -- not cleverly, but in a "you talk funny" kind of way. We'd hope the French woman and the Danish guy didn't understand what was going on, but let's face it -- they probably know a hell of a lot more English than Breuer knows of their languages.
The trivia was followed by a decent set from the Metallica-covering Finnish cello band Apocalyptica -- but that eventually became frustrating. The show had been going for two hours, and no one had heard any Metallica songs played by the actual members of Metallica yet. Compounding our impatience was what seemed like an epic set change after Apocalyptica. (It was, alas, the first of many to come.)
Shortly after 11 p.m., the members of Metallica appeared onstage, holding instruments this time, and began talking. The talking eventually subsided, and the band launched into its main set, which was filled mostly with classics and covers, along with a few duds. The band said it didn't have room on Death Magnetic for a song called "Hate Train," which it had never played live -- and the slient reaction from last night's crowd demonstrated why. But tunes like "Leper Messiah" and "The Shortest Straw" were as strong as ever.