Friday, February 06, 2009

Metallica at the Prudential Center

As I alluded to a few days ago, I caught Metallica's triumphant return to the New York area on Saturday. Brooklyn Vegan has the review about right (and some sweet-ass pics), although I should say that the sound for Machine Head in the commoner's section up in the hills was a far more palatable - if admittedly trebly after The Sword's low-end brick of fuzz - piece of engineering. Maybe the sound guy slacked off on the second night.

Anyway, it took me a few days to process this show, because I got to thinking about the subjective quality of the live experience. Throwing out the really complicated factors - things like amount paid for tickets, quality of available merchandise, and where I'm standing/sitting - there's still relative physical comfort, crowd energy, sound quality, whether I've seen the band before and have a level of expectation, how well I know their music, and so on and so forth...and that's without even thinking about the band's performance!

Take the expectations for this particular show:
  • Previously, I had seen Metallica once, Machine Head once (well technically twice, but the second time I was running back and forth between a venue entrance and a parking lot trying not to have a stress-induced heart attack), and The Sword not at all.
  • The Metallica show is one of my top three performances of all time.
  • I've written blog posts lauding both The Blackening and Gods of the Earth, I know both The Sword and the portion of Machine Head's catalog they'd still dare play live well enough to pluck out riff changes and song titles from my head-banging-adled brain, and Metallica's music was one of the staples of my adolescence.
To say I was completely frickin jazzed-out for this show would be an understatement: I'd been ready to go since I purchased the tickets in September and woke the morning of with a mish-mash of melodies and gently-sweating palms. Expectations were very high.

During the show, I observed the following:
  • Crowd energy: not that there were many people in their seats in section 123 for The Sword or Machine Head, but I was the only one standing throughout. I can take pride in my stand against the indifference of other fans, but it definitely wasn't the same rush as it would have been with a large, pumped up crowd. I've found that I go to concerts in part to surrender myself to a very safe form of mob psychology for a bit, so it's always disappointing when there's no mob to join.
  • I cannot headbang like I used to: or maybe it was trying to do so for 4 hours straight that did me in. I couldn't hold my head up properly until Wednesday and I'm probably lucky I don't have whiplash.
  • Drunk and starving: I did not eat anything until after I got home that night, some 12 hours after lunch. I also drank a fair amount of beer. It's probably fortunate that, unlike the drunken fuck behind me, I didn't fall over several rows of seats at least once.
  • Use of intro tapes: maybe they were trying to avoid instrument changes, or they're finally getting old and need more breaks, but using more than one intro tape per show seemed a little odd.
In the end, I can tell you I had an excellent time that I paid for several times over the next few days. At first blush, I can tell you I had a better time at my first Metallica show, but as far as why, I can only guess that there's some combination of too-high expectations (and maybe a lack of "Creeping Death"?) to blame. Overall, not part of the fabled top three, but definitely in my top 20.

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