Monday, July 09, 2007

Band of Extreme Metal +5

Having bought a couple of tickets to a guitar-type gig (Steve Vai) a couple of years back, I dragged along my mate H (she of the healthcare, policy, legal, pr industry, guru-type) who happens to also do a good line in ‘rock chick’ whenever the Bon Jovi circus rolls into town. She’d not seen Vai before, and was suitably astonished, blown away and so forth by not only the man’s virtuosity and versatility, but also by the amount of fun that can be had watching what is basically a bunch of abnormally talented musicians letting loose and having a blast onstage.

Note to Kaiser Chiefs, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, et al: it is actually possible to entertain people while not actually dumbing everything down to its lowest common denominator.

So, in return a little while back, and due in large part to the manner in which I continually buttonhole people about how Metallica put on a good show, H bought a bunch of tickets for their Wembley Stadium gig last night.

Though we were up in the stratosphere as can be seen from the shot taken from my phone, the show was a good one. Marred mainly by the family of three jug-eared twats just in front of us who insisted on standing and blocking the view for much of the set. Hey ho.

Judging by the tour dates listed on the backs of several t-shirts (the European leg only consisting of 12 shows) and the tour’s name - Sick of the Studio, it’s fairly safe to say that the boys have decided to let off steam with some stripped-down shows, rather than put on the full, 27-truck monster stage show that they have in recent years. If you haven’t seen the DVDs of Cunning Stunts, I really suggest you do. They’re quite something.

As full disclosure, the reason (apart from being a computer geek and complete nerd) that I ended up checking out Metallica live is due to working as a designer on several of their albums. From Load through to Garage, Inc. I had the distinct pleasure of working for and then with Andie Airfix of Satori (who really needs to get a website!) on translating Lars’ ideas, the rest of the band’s sketches and input, along with the management at Q-Prime’s ability to rein it all in into gargantuan artwork for the albums. Eventually I had to decamp a load of my gear into the Satori studio, so that Andie and I could be on tap for the US and also so we could bounce ideas around and quickly get things worked up into something that was worth sending across to the band. Andie has an astonishing CV, as long as your arm, of top acts he’s designed for. Plus, he’s a great guy and very easy to work with.

The Metallica jobs were always a joy to work on. The best photography (Anton Corbijn going out on tour with them as well as scores of sessions he’d done with them), always the largest amount of pages one could fit into a CD booklet, and many opportunities to have some fun with a few spoof covers flying backwards and forwards across the Atlantic. Though the boys in the band had very definite ideas about how things should look, they certainly weren’t averse to trying other suggestions out. One of the photo shoots for Load even had the band looking like they’d just walked out of the glam rock era of the seventies, make-up, false eyelashes, lipstick, fur coats and so forth. I can’t say that I blame the band for not using them in the end. Load was such a radical departure from their previous work that many previously loyal fans walked away from them at that moment. Personally, I think it’s their best since the Black Album, featuring some very thoughtful songwriting.

I was already away from working with them when the whole Some Kind of Monster, psycho-therapist, Jason-leaving thing happened, so I can’t comment on what might be going through their collective consciousness as a band. I watched the SKoM DVD and, from my experience of working with them, I’d say it’s a pretty accurate and honest showing of what they’re like as people. I remember having a long conversation in a bar with Jason after one of their London shows about the physical requirements and dexterity required for playing jazz. He sounded very much like a man eager to try out as many different musical styles as possible. A relaxed and charming man, very much aware of ‘taking off’ his stage persona after the show. Certainly someone I’d be very keen to work with musically.

Anyway, in all Wembley was a thoroughly enjoyable night - huge thanks to H for sorting tickets and taking us all out for the night. If you ever get the chance to see the boys and aren’t already a fan, go check ’em out. You may surprise yourself and like it.


At 8:49 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

I dug this post...


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