By Paul Connors, Contributor
Last weekend was historic for Metallica fans in Vancouver, as our city served as the host for their latest tour, “The Full Arsenal.” When the Rogers Arena concert scheduled for August 24 sold out in the matter of minutes, a second show was all but guaranteed. What fans weren’t expecting was the last-minute announcement of a third show to wrap up some shots for the 3-D Blu-ray set for release next year. That’s right; the Vancouver shows were to be filmed for a 3-D concert film, which will even get a theatrical run to properly match the immensely theatrical show.
In an unprecedented act, it was announced that tickets for this third show would be a mere $5 (as opposed to the combined $220 I paid for both weekend shows). Too good to be true? Not entirely. Sure, there were halts between songs for technical adjustments, but the rest of the show remained relatively unchanged. Not only did this offer way more people another chance to see this amazing show, but all the proceeds were to go to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank! Besides the gaps and a few missing songs, this was “The Full Arsenal” in all its ridiculously over-the-top glory.
As soon as you caught a glimpse of the 140 by 50-foot stage, you immediately sensed what set this show apart. This thing was massive, and video screens covered the entirety of its floor. A lesser band would be lost in the midst of such a large production, but Metallica took it as a challenge to blow us away. The cameras could be seen above the crowds, rotating around the entire arena, which gave fans even more motivation to rock out to their fullest. With hopes of seeing ourselves on the DVD, I think it’s safe to say everyone gave it their all for the band, and they returned the favour.
The one unfortunate aspect of the show was opening ‘act’—Jim Breuer of Half Baked (1998) fame. Any comedian opening for a concert like this would be a huge misstep, but this was just torture. Breuer was met with a lot of negativity, which I assume is why his material the second night was drastically different. One redeeming factor of his appearance was when he brought a young kid up on stage, who incidentally was a bigger Metallica fan than any of us. Not only was this kid from out of town, but it was his fourth show, he had tickets in the snake pit (the mosh pit located within the stage), and a wristband given to him by James Hetfield himself.
The show itself played out more like a greatest hits of the band’s best. From the opening song, “Creeping Death,” these guys didn’t let up for a second. Every major studio album worth mentioning was represented fantastically. For over two hours, Metallica bombarded us with the classics, beating us over the head with intense imagery and deafening explosions. The stage floor was constantly morphing into blood and other intense visuals, combined with effects projected onto transparent lowered screens during each song. Elaborate stage tricks added to the excitement of the show, whether it was constructing a giant Lady Liberty statue during “And Justice for All…,” watching crosses rise from the stage during “Master of Puppets,” or having giant Tesla coils shoot lightning at a giant electric chair during ”Ride the Lightning.” The concert was a celebration of those timeless elements people love about Metallica, and a summation of their entire career.
In the midst of all the insanity and pyrotechnics, Metallica simply sounded great. The band looked like they were having a great time, and used their excessively-large stage as a playground for their charisma and showmanship. Notorious drummer Lars Ulrich was stationed in the very center on a rotating drum set, while Hetfield gave fans in the pit plenty of opportunities to touch his guitar as he wailed on it.
This show was loud, intense, and seemingly riddled with technical difficulties. These “difficulties,” however, turned out to be a ruse on the part of the band. As lights and rigging equipment sporadically malfunctioned during the show, some were scratching their heads, but others knew better. By the time the band unleashed the seminal “Enter Sandman,” the stage literally fell apart. Coffins fell from the ceiling, mechanical arms collapsed, and a stagehand attempting to fix something was lit on fire and ran around the stage flailing his arms. This was quite a sight to behold, and at any other concert we would’ve been afraid. As Hetfield yelled out for the show to stop while they extinguished the seemingly injured stagehand, we couldn’t help but cheer at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Is everyone okay?” Hetfield asked, “is anything still working?” The sentiment here was to revert back to the basics; to take a trip back to the garage days of the band during the inception of their first studio album, Kill ‘Em All (1983). With all the equipment “destroyed,” they had no choice but to appease the fans with a double encore of that album’s most head bang-worthy tunes, without the previous flare of their elaborate production. As the houselights aptly came on after the classic “Hit the Lights,” the band finished with “Seek and Destroy.”
As giant inflatable “Metallica” balls dropped from the ceiling, one look around and it was obvious that this was one of the most satisfying concert experiences any of us had ever had the pleasure of enjoying. This fan got to experience it three times, and I plan on reliving it many times more once the Blu-ray is released.