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Metallica and St. Luke's Orchestra

Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
November 23, 1999

By Julie Wiskirchen

Was this an epic show? As James Hetfield would say, "Abso-fuckin-lutely!"

When I heard they were going to do this symphony thang in San Francisco, I'll admit to being a little skeptical. Pink Floyd with the symphony, sure. Moody Blues had an orchestra...okay, but please don't make me go. But Metallica? Was this another test for the fans, many of whom deserted them when they cut their hair and went "alternative"? The band did have some precedent for going high culture. They would be reuniting with Michael Kamen, their collaborator who orchestrated "Nothing Else Matters" on the black album. Kamen has also worked with Aerosmith, Pete Townshend, and Pink Floyd.

The San Francisco show was a critical and commercial success and spawned the S&M (Symphony and Metallica) CD and video, and to promote the release of the CD and video, the band did two more live shows, one in Berlin and one in New York. Boy, it's sure great to live in the capital of the world. Now I remember why I pay five times the rent my apartment is worth.

I guess it's too expensive to fly all 77 members of the San Francisco Symphony and their flugelhorns and such across the country, so Metallica chose to team up with some locals, St. Luke's Orchestra. The show was sold out from day one and the arena was a-buzz when we arrived. We purchased T-shirts and perused our free programs while waiting for the show to start. The programs gave the setlist, so there would be no surprises, but we mused over how the different songs would sound, symphony-sized. The orchestra took the stage and played an ominous theme by the king of the spaghetti western scores, Ennio Morricone. Then Metallica came out and broke into the first song, the instrumental "Call of Ktulu." Next up was the evening's first sing-a-long, "Master of Puppets." It's truly thrilling, if a little scary in a Hitler youth sorta way, to see 20,000 fists pumping in unison and 20,000 voices roaring, "Master! MASTER!" I got chills.

The first half of the show rolled on with "Of Wolf and Man" and "The Thing That Should Not Be." A woman showed up in our section wearing lycra pants and a half shirt that exposed a roll of fat around her stomach. She proceeded to gyrate to the Metallica songs as if she were onstage at a strip bar. I know that Rob Zombie has a new album out called American Made Music To Strip By, so why not bump n' grind to Metallica? Well, it was more than a little disgusting to watch and distracted us from the rock gods onstage, although the girl's boyfriend seemed pretty happy. Thankfully, it wasn't long before the security guards booted her out.

Next, Metallica played an excellent new tune "No Leaf Clover," which gave the audience a chance to pause and drink beer since the song is too new to be known by heart. Metallica tended to drown out the orchestra, although the mix improved in the second half of the show. They played "Hero of the Day" and "Devil Dance" before ending the first half of the show with "Bleeding Me."

Post-intermission, they kicked things off with the classic "Nothing Else Matters," their first foray into classical music, from the black album. The band seemed to be really jonesing on the energy from the crowd. The setlist of classics continued to build: "Until It Sleeps," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Human," "Wherever I May Roam," "The Outlaw Torn," and "Sad But True." The crowd really went nuts for the epic "One," as everyone did their best Beavis impersonation, banging their head and shouting the staccato lyrics, machine-gun-style. It seemed like the place couldn't get any louder, but it did for "Enter Sandman" and the final song "Battery."

There was no encore, but the show was three hours long, so who's complaining? The S&M venture was a risky move for Metallica, since they had already alienated many of their fans, and metal fans aren't typically classical music afficionados. This show and the S&M album prove they still rock out while taking musical risks. What's next? "Enter Sandman: The Opera?" "Snoop Doggy Dogg and James Hetfield duetting on "Nothing Else Matters but the Benjamins and the Hos?" Will I be there to see these and any other experiments the band cooks up? Abso-fuckin-lutely!

Official Metallica Website

BONUS!! Absolutely free!! Metallica "hacku"!!
Grace Hackett pays tribute to Jason Newstead.

Oh my darling Jace
When you play that searing bass
A smile on my face

Read more of Ape Culture's concert reviews.

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