More of tripping the light fantastic with The Boyz …
Then there was what I call the ‘Disaster’ gig. The staging was as innovative as ever. In the round. Massive 15,000 seater venue. Four gigantic robotic gantries were attached to the four corners of the stage and they moved around slowly and menacingly well before the band appeared on stage. Think Terminator. Think futuristic – laser beams and spotlights slicing through the darkness, the gantry suddenly swivelling and ‘aiming’ at various sections of the audience. Think four arms of some monstrous beast about to rise up from underneath the stage – cameras on each of them relaying images onto giant screens around the venue. Pretty impressive stuff.
When the band played the four arms seemed to hone in on the four band members in robotic swoops, swivels and turns. Then something appeared to be wrong with one of them. Sparks flew, cascading onto the stage. There were walkways above the stage and one of the lighting crew ran across one to the ailing gantry. More sparks – then an explosion. Another explosion and James fell down, holding his face. The crew member fell off the walkway – falling towards the stage. The damaged gantry began to fall towards the stage. One of the crew, in flames, ran across the stage. The band were whisked away by security. Two ambulance guys tended to the guy who’d fallen on the stage. CHAOS.
Suddenly ALL the lights went out.
Before audience panic set in Lars, standing next to his kit, reached up and turned on a single swinging light bulb and there were METALLICA tightly grouped together around the drums. ‘It’s all fine,’ shouted James on a faint and struggling sound system. ‘Are you all ok?‘ ‘YES,’ roared the crowd still fuelled by adrenalin from the ‘disaster’ but slowly beginning to realise the whole scenario was part of the show. It was all planned. They know how to wind people up those boys!
Everyone strained to hear a distant Metallica, for some a barely audible sound in such a huge venue. Then, halfway through the song, in an assault of the senses – the lights and the sound kicked in. We were off again.
What’s scary is that I’d been told about the show’s set piece months before at Lars’ house in San Francisco. He’d actually TOLD ME about a brilliant staging idea the band were working on. When I actually saw the gantry explode and collapse it was done so well I’d completely forgotten I already knew it was going to happen! Brilliant.
You can even watch it … terrifying!
We’re off to Berlin now to see a live performance of …
For the penultimate METALLICA Blog … No! NO! I hear you cry … (don’t worry there will be more) … we’ll go into the design of the S&M sleeve and artwork and the joys of working with the amazing Anton Corbijn as well as some design work for Metallica no-one has ever seen. There’s always additional artwork which is cool but obviously there can only be one ‘final choice’ and therefore there’s a lot that doesn’t reach the public domain. We’ll have a browse through some of that I reckon.
S&M, 1999, the Velodrome, Berlin …
So glad rags on and off to Berlin. I loved Berlin – exciting, edgy, amazing sights to see that were behind that WALL for years. Amazing place. GO.
S&M was only performed three times – in San Francisco (where it was recorded) in New York and in Berlin. It was an awesome project. Approached by Michael Kamen (now, sadly, no longer with us) to orchestrate some of Metallica’s work, the band, true to form, jumped at the chance to be involved in the challenge. Rock bands have tried before to combine heavy rock with an orchestra and, for me at least, it’s never really cut it. The orchestra somehow never had the attitude to pull it off successfully – too restrained and too formal to allow the combination to be successful. With Michael Kamen and Metallica – NO CHANCE of that.
Apparently the band hadn’t had much time to rehearse with the 150 classical musicians. Yes – 150! That’s a huge orchestra by any standards. However all were professionals determined to dazzle and to ROCK. The orchestra clearly had no idea what a Metallica gig was like and what an awesome welcome fans always provide. From where we were sitting on the front row it was amazing to watch how they all changed as it got nearer to Showtime. I’ve no idea what ‘HOLY SHIT!‘ or ‘WHAT THE FUCK!‘ is in German but whatever it is you could see it spreading across the 150 faces of the orchestra as the atmosphere and tension reached fever pitch. By the time James appeared on stage and began to play the first notes on his guitar, the musicians were psyched up probably like they never had been before – urged on by roaring fans to produce something spectacular. They delivered Bigtime. The band generate a massive amount of energy and with the support and expertise of a 150-strong ‘backing band’ who all rocked up the occasion, energy levels were phenomenal.
Try this one – only the second song into the set!
The after-show party was fantastic too. I can’t remember exactly what the venue was but it was a major historic building. Vast and architecturally stunning, I felt I was in some kind of time-warp arriving at a centuries old palace populated by heavy metal fans and guests. Weird but both were giving out extreme attitude in very different ways. The VIP area was in the middle of a huge hall, roped off and patrolled by a dozen very glamourous female security. People who tried to enter the VIP area without passes were totally phased by the Amazons. They just stared icily, hands on hips, giving off an extreme ‘Don’t even think about it!‘ vibe. No-one did.
Berlin was one of the very best of METALLICALIVE. Unforgettable and with so many remarkable images that will stay with me for ever.