I’ve been lucky enough to see Metallica live twice. Admittedly I would like it to have been more but both times at the SECC in Glasgow have been pretty special occasions despite the 17 year gap. Over the years there has been a lot of criticism about the venue with regards sound and a lack of atmosphere. On both these nights that mattered not a jot.
The first time was October the 27th 1992. It was the day of the gig and I hadn’t managed to get a ticket but, as luck would have it, my neighbour’s son had, for some reason, decided he wasn’t going to go. She offered me the ticket and I nearly bit her hand off. It didn’t matter to me that I was going on my own – I likely said to my mum I was meeting folk – all that mattered was I was going to see Metallica.
They were riding the crest of Metallica (or The Black Album) wave, not only were they the biggest thrash band around they were up there with the biggest artists in the world. As a mosher, an outsider, Metallica had crossed over into the mainstream in a way that gave us a bit of validation at school. Everyone knew the riff to ‘Enter Sandman’. But the band still had this immense back catalogue that we felt we could call ours. They comfortably managed to keep a foot in both camps.
Onto the night in question and, as mentioned, I was flying solo. It didn’t bother me, I was sure that I would meet up with folk I knew, and sure enough I bumped into some guys from school. On the way we managed to get kicked out McDonald’s for partaking in our first taste of Buckfast. It was gonna be that sort of night.
Once we got to the venue the atmosphere was crackling. I could feel the excitement, my friends and I were hyper as were those around us. First we checked out the stage setup – the rumours had been that the band were using a round stage with a special pit in the middle. Although in here it wasn’t quite a circle, it did have the pit and there were loads of mic stands set up round the stage. There had been mixed messages going around about a support band, some saying it was to be Skid Row, but nobody was that bothered. The lights dimmed and the big screens beside the stage lit up – it was the band live backstage introducing what was to be a short video montage in place of a support. To be honest, a support band would’ve been on a hiding to nothing anyway – all we wanted was Metallica.
The screens went dark and Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ started. So did the goosebumps. Then the band were there and ‘Enter Sandman’ kicked in. Hall 4 went ballistic. Now I would be lying here if I was to say I can remember every moment of the gig, it was 21 years ago. But there are moments of magic that have stayed with me. The lights dimming to an eerie green as James Hetfield, right above me, growled his way through ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, the massively extended ‘Seek & Destroy’ with those in the centre stage pit given a mic to sing the title line.
I think more than anything though, it was the crowd that really affected me. Prior to this, I hadn’t been to any metal gigs. I had been to see the likes of Stevie Wonder and Dire Straits but this was a whole new ball game for me. When they finished up their second encore with ‘Battery’ it was like absolutely nothing I had seen or heard before.
Fast forward 17 years and I’m back. Same venue, this time I was the person giving out the last-minute ticket to my sister’s boyfriend. The fact that he was maybe only 5 or 6 years old when I was there the first time is not lost on me. What else isn’t lost is the feeling of togetherness – people talk about the Metallica family and it’s there, kids in their early teens through to guys who were checking out Zeppelin and Sabbath first time around. And the band? The old songs, the ones I saw them play in 1992 still sounded great, the crowd going as mental for ‘Master of Puppets’ as they were for the new stuff.
As a live band, they seemed to have lost none of their passion or their intensity despite the passing of the years and the change in lineup with Robert Trujillo replacing Jason Newsted on bass. I can’t wait to see them again and I hope there isn’t another 17 year gap.
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