Metallica rules!

IT WAS clear that the die-hard fans who had been lining up to see Metallica since mid-afternoon on Aug 21 just wanted to have a good time.

Metallica were in Kuala Lumpur for the first time as part of their 2013 Asian tour, and over 30,000 hardcore fans filled up Stadium Merdeka for the once-in-a-lifetime concert.

In a surprising twist, Metallica took to the stage 15 minutes early, with the strains of Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold – its signature concert opening track – sending the whole stadium into a frenzy.

The show kicked off with a lot of energy, with frontman James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo blowing out amplifiers with Hit the Lights, Master of Puppets and Fuel.

They then took fans on a trip through their hits over the years, covering iconic tracks like Fade to Black, Cyanide, Sad But True, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman.

From the front of the stage to the stands, fans were seen jumping or headbanging enthusiastically, singing along to almost every track.

Hetfield asked the crowd: “Have you guys waited long? Only 31 years? Sorry it took so long, but thank you for keeping the faith. For all the Metallica family that waited patiently for us, this is for you.”

While Hetfield did most of the talking and singing, Trujillo and Hammett each had solos during the short breaks between songs.

They also alternated between their many custom guitars during the performance, providing some eye candy for the more instrument-savvy fans.

When they finished, they stuck around, waving and throwing boxfulls of guitar picks into the crowd, and then taking their bows to wild applause.

It was a stellar show from start to finish, although the band did miss out several popular tracks.

On the issue of retirement, Hetfield had this to say: “I don’t know where we’ll end up after this. There might come a day when we wake up and go: ‘Dude, I can’t move.’

“Then we take a day off, and see how it goes. Or we just tour less, or write more songs. You don’t retire from music, you don’t retire from art.”

Spoken like a true artiste indeed.

Masters of heavy metal

In person, Metallica frontman James Hetfield looked like a laid-back tourist, wearing shorts and flip flops, and easily answering questions from the journalists.

Hetfield seemed amused that even after over three decades, there were still countries in the world that the band had yet to visit. "There's always firsts, even at my ripe age of 50!" he said.

Among the firsts, the band's upcoming 3D movie, Metallica: Through The Never, set for release in late September. It is a collaboration with IMAX, and will feature the band's biggest hits as well as key indoor stage props, such as the crosses from Master of Puppets and the coffins from Death Magnetic.

"We wanted to make this movie [different] so we put a storyline to it," Hetfield said. "It's about one of the roadies on the show who gets sent on a mission, and the adventure he gets into. His life takes a big turn; it's like two movies in one, actually."

He shared some of his observations on the music industry over the years. "I would say it's more difficult for a band [today] to be around for 30 years [from now]. I think we've paid a lot of dues and toured around a lot. I think there's some bands that don't want to work that hard anymore. I think the internet has obviously changed music immensely.

"I also think that bands aren't making the kind of money that we were or are to reinvest in their art. That's how we got to where we are - reinvestment. There's a whole system that's changed now."

When asked about people who accused the band of toning down their image over the years, Hetfield exclaimed, "I'm 50, I'm not 20 anymore! We've gone through 'We want to spread chaos, we want to destroy the world!' to 'Hey, we have a large family around this planet, let's go play for them and make people smile'.

"We're different, and we're not afraid to be honest about how we feel at this age. Musically, we're not catering to anyone except ourselves. So maybe the people who are saying [we've] toned down are young and want some crazy stuff. So...listen to the early albums!"

The concert was organised by Galaxy Group and supported by Malaysia Major Events, a division of Malaysia Exhibition & Convention Bureau (MyCEB), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.