The Forum: Inglewood, CA 12/18/08
It was somewhere during their second song during their second night in Los Angeles (ok, Inglewood) that I realized – I have never actually seen Metallica live. Sure, this was my 5th Metallica concert, but every time I have been in the back of the arena/stadium/amphitheatre. Not this time however, as I lucked into a below market value pit ticket for the greatest heavy metal band on the planet. I hoped into my car and after two hours of brutal ..Southern California.. traffic, I found myself on the floor of the once famous Forum for a night of Bay Area fueled heavy
Knowing that I had already missed the opening set by The Sword, after multiple security checks I made it into the one time home of the Los Angeles Kings & Lakers during Machine Head’s set. While it was nice to see Machine Head after all these years (the other time I saw them was during their rap rock phase when they played at the Fillmore in San Francisco back in 1999), the opening act was supposed to be Lamb of God. When the earlier pro sports teams moved across town to Staples Center, the Forum was purchased by an African American church. While they allow acts such as Slipknot, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Motley Crue and Metallica use their venue, Lamb of God is banned. While Jesus may forgive sinners, the Faithful Central Bible Church has not forgiven Lamb of God for once being called Burn The Priest. Thus they are banned. Machine Head made mention to this before playing a cover of Iron Maiden’s classic “Hallow Be Thy Name”. I got to catch a song from their latest record The Blackening before they closed with their 1994 classic “Davidian”. As with just about every band that I have seen open for Metallica, the sound was less than stellar, but after being on the road for God knows how long, the few songs I got to see Machine Head play were both brutal yet flawless.
I mingled with various folks while the road crew set up for the main event. I met Beavis and Butthead, watched them hit on a mother/daughter combo. I talked to the kid in the SF Giants hat (my team for those scoring at home) who managed to snag the plastic cup Rob Flynn of Machine Head threw out at the end of the set (for the record, it had ROOT beer in it). The crowd in my section of the floor (keep in mind that Metallica is playing In The Round) was a mix of three generations of Metallica fans. I met folks who first saw the band open for Ozzy back in the Master of Puppet days. I was the kid who discovered them during The Black Album, but was not old enough to see them till they toured behind Load. I also met some young kids who were about to watch their first Metallica show. It did not matter what generation you joined the family during, we were all tightly squished five feet from the stage, and when the lights went down and The Ecstasy of Gold played over the PA, the family got a lil crazy.
As the band hit the stage, they opened with “That Was Just Your Life” from their new album Death Magnetic. A return to their roots, the first part of the show featured multiple songs from their most recent #1 record. “The End of The Line” got so crazy that it forced two small circle pits into one large sea of swirling sweaty souls. While not mellow at all, “Broken, Beat and Scarred” gave the crowd a bit of a breather, especially after the pyrotechnic spectacle that is “One” wrapped with its speedy palm muted riffs. Sandwiched back to back between Metallica classics were the new hits “All Nightmare Long” and “The Day That Never Comes”. Both were brutal, and made all of us forget all about St. Anger (which the band wisely avoided playing anything off of).
With the amount of tracks from their debut album Kill Em All, one would think they were seeing a tour to support that record. Mixed throughout the entire set, the family was treated to such thrash metal masterpieces as “The Four Horsemen”, “Hit The Lights” “Fight Fire With Fire”, “Motorbreath” & “Seek and Destroy”. With the last song of the encore being “Seek and Destroy” large Metallica beach balls were dropped from the roof of God’s house making the gig look more like a New Years Eve bash then a cold autumn night in December.
The only other time I saw a show in the round was Metallica back in 1996. I hated that stage (I think it may have had something to do with where I was sitting inside the Cow Palace), but this time around it worked really well. With the three non seated members running around, it allowed you to focus better on each individual member. I noticed the crowd seemed to follow James whichever side of our stage he was on. Kirk seemed to spend much more time on the other side of the arena, but did pay a visit. The newest member of Metallica – Rob Trujillo is such a beast, I think he managed to be on all four corner of the stage at the same time. Lars, not wanting to ignore anyone who made it inside the gig had a drum set that made quarter turns throughout the night. I also noticed famed rock photographer Ross Haflin (you have probably seen him on various VH1 specials) taking photos of the band during their set. Not that anyone cares about that dude but me, and well maybe the guy smoking Crystal Meth a few feet away from me.
If Metallica now has three generations of fans, my generation (The Black Album) was well represented as well. “Sad But True”, “Wherever I May Roam” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” (which closed out the main set) all ended up like camp fire sing along by the sold out crowd. In fact, on many numbers, front man James Hetfield didn’t even have to bother to sing, he let the crowd do it for him.
While every show I have seen Metallica do over the last 12 years has been radically different, I truly feel like after this show I have seen Metallica. They were in my face. When I snapped photos, James made sure to smile. I don’t know if I can say it was the best Metallica show I have seen, and I don’t know if it was the most fun (I did go by myself after all). However, it may have been the first and last time I got to witness these legends From The Pit, and for that I am forever thankful.