Metallica at the Fonda Theater
Metallica Live! Enough said.
I’ve been a big Metallica fan ever since I was a pre-teen, but for some reason I had never seen them perform live. The closest I had come was a Metallica tribute band called Damage, Inc. at the House of Blues in Disneyland. They were good, and I had a lot of fun, but it’s not the same as the original.
With a fantastic new album in tow, Metallica is currently on tour. I live in Los Angeles, and they had originally posted an Oakland date at a smaller theater. Now, Oakland is a 7 or 8 hour drive from me, but I figured I’d suck up the drive if I was able to secure some tickets. I was unable to do so, and was pretty bummed. However, they announced an LA date shortly thereafter. Since I’m in the fan club, I entered to win, figuring it would never happen. Well, I won!…. the opportunity to buy tickets early, and for cheap. Still a great prize, and the money went to charity.
The line at the Fonda Theater already wrapped around the block by the time I arrived at 7:20. Luckily, my friend Anthony had arrived about 30 minutes earlier so he had a pretty good spot in line. It was raining pretty hard, and no one was prepared for it. I’m sure the guys selling ponchos made a killing that night. All the tickets were “Will Call” to dissuade scalpers, so the line moved more slowly than usual. They guy in line behind us told us that he paid $350 each for his tickets. I just glanced over at Anthony, knowingly. There were plenty of fans outside with cardboard signs asking to buy tickets. It’s amazing that after 36 years, Metallica is still a hot ticket. Good for them!
When we finally made it inside, we were soaked, but excited. Since we were close to the front of the line, we were able to secure spots fairly close to the front of the stage. We couldn’t believe our luck. Except for the top web banner, the photos in this post were taken by me. That’s how close we were. The stage was pretty sparse; no tapestries or anything. The only thing that told you this was a Metallica concert was the “M” symbol on the amps. I don’t know if this is usual, or if it’s because the show was put together last minute. (If you know, please let me know in the comments.) By the time Metallica finally took the stage at 9:15 or so (no opening bands), the crowd was electric. I’ve never heard such a loud cheer in such a small theater before.
Interestingly, the lights didn’t go down. The band members just took the stage, and the lights stayed on for the entire first song, which I correctly guessed would be a cover. (Sorry, Anthony. Pay up!) My guess was this was so people could take their photos early and then put the cameras away to enjoy the show. The later songs used the lights to supplement the songs more closely. For example, the lights were timed to flicker on and off with each “chug” of the guitar on Creeping Death.
My friend Steve is probably the biggest Metallica fan I know, and he’s seen them several times. He kept telling me I had to go see them, as their performance is still very energetic after all these years and they still play all their old songs. He wasn’t kidding. They played two off of their first album, which came out in 1983. They also played three songs off the new record, and the rest were hits from their 80s albums plus the Black Album. The highlight for me was the end of the set, when they played three of my favorite songs back to back to back: Master of Puppets (their best song), For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Enter Sandman. (I took a short video of Master of Puppets. Check it out on my Instagram page.)
James was the only one who talked to the crowd between songs. Between his banter with the crowd, and his conversation about beekeeping on the Joe Rogan podcast the next day, he just seems like a really chill and humble guy who I’d like to be friends with. It doesn’t seem like his fame has gotten to his head, at all. He was funny, too. One of his jokes was about being 53 years old; I’m impressed that they still play as fast and as hard as they do. A lot of heavy bands go soft and slow in their old(er) age, but Metallica hasn’t done that. If anything, they got softer in the Load/Re-Load days and have gotten heavier and faster since. They were able to maintain a high level of energy for the whole show. In fact, I’m a bit surprised the mosh pit wasn’t crazier than it was based on what the band was giving us. On the other hand, I noticed a couple of women who looked like the golden girls in the crowd on our way out of the theater. It was a bit strange to see blue-haired old women at a metal concert, but more power to them!
After the show, Lars was spitting water into a fan’s mouth. James and Kirk were throwing out guitar picks… and I caught one! (See the photo, below.) Anthony got one, too, but he picked it up off the ground. (Psssh, amateur. Ha!) It was the icing on the cake of a great night. On the way out, we ran into Brian Posehn, the comedian whom I also ran into at the Faith No More show in 2015. He obviously has excellent taste in music.
Metallica was always going to be my favorite concert of the year. It’s almost not fair to the rest of the excellent bands I saw in 2016. How do you compete with legends? It may not technically have been the best show I saw in 2016, but it’s the one at which I definitely had the most fun. Five stars.
Metallica Setlist: Breadfan (Budgie cover) | Creeping Death | Metal Militia | Sad But True (followed by Kirk’s solo) | Fade to Black | Atlas, Rise! | Harvester of Sorrow | Moth Into Flame (followed by Rob’s solo) | One | Master of Puppets | For Whom the Bell Tolls | Enter Sandman
Encore: Whiskey in the Jar (traditional cover) | Hardwired | Seek & Destroy
Setlist: ★★★★ out of 5
Sound: ★★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★★ out of 5
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