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Metallica, Mastodon, Machine Head, HIM - July 8, 2007 - London, UK @ Wembley Stadium

By: Lee Johnson

After a solid lineup of supporting acts, starting with a brutal set from Mastodon, it was shaping up to be a night of awesome metal at the truly enormous Wembley Stadium. (To give some sense of the sheer size of the venue, from our seat we could see the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound.) Then late-comers Machine Head (subbing for Bullet For My Valentine because of illness) knocked its set on the head with the anthem "Davidian" and expressed how amazing it was to be asked to support Metallica at the last minute.

The third act broke the mold though. As HIM came onstage we saw a teenager, dressed in tight-fitting black with a heart-a-gram drawn on his face and gently parted hair running to his seat. We looked to the right, and a row behind us there was a man in his 30s, with long black hair, jeans, faded black T-shirt and a massive beard looking thoroughly unimpressed. That seemed to sum it up. The teenager was excited, and rightfully so, for what HIM plays, it did very well. Unfortunately, it was just misplaced. Ville Vallo and company left to warm applause, but a lot of the crowd just seemed to be excited about Metallica being next.

With metal breeding few superstars today, watching icons like Metallica reminds you that you are witnessing music history. The band emerged from '80s hair metal as a beacon of reality. No make-up, no costumes; just jeans, T-shirts and thrash. From the early days of speed metal, the Bay Area heroes hit with the massive "Master Of Puppets" and evolved in their own way, always staying fresh—"The Black Album" and "Load" overwhelmingly proved that. "St. Anger' was a strong shot in the heart of diehard fans. The music, and the players themselves, had vastly changed. Strangely, the documentary "Some Kind Of Monster" showed that they were actually proud of it.

But back to the show. Metallica walked onstage to "The Ecstasy Of Gold" and 10,000 shouts of applause before launching into "Creeping Death. A strange choice for an opening song, but the fans got into it nonetheless. The crowd roared along with James Hetfield, then began head banging in unison after Kirk Hammett finished the finger-twisting solo with note-for-note perfection and a huge breakdown riff began blasting out of the giant speakers.

Hetfield noted, very sincerely, in a gap between songs, "The difference in atmosphere between today and yesterday is astounding." He was referring to Metallica performing at the Live Earth show in the venue the day before. And it truly was. The quartet played brilliantly, every one of them in true form. Even human errors, such as a slight mistiming in "Master Of Puppets," were quickly rectified and instantly forgiven. To treat their imperfections as anything but a reminder that they aren't robots would be ridiculous. The audience simply sat back and watched the legends at work.

The set list was simply fantastic. Classics like "The Four Horsemen" rode alongside "No Leaf Clover," the midpaced, powerful epic from "S&M." But the band never touched any songs from "St. Anger." The forgotten son, as it were. We got the sense that it was sweeping it under the rug. Pretending it never happened. Which wouldn't be a problem if Metallica wasn't very proud of the album. How much would it have hurt for the act to stand up for itself by playing just one song from the album?

A firework introduction to "One" dashed these thoughts from our mind. The display re-created the battle sounds that open the track with impressive accuracy and continued to the end of the show and, of course, "Enter Sandman." The 'Tallica boys hadn't let up for a second during a night that will stick with everyone in the stadium, including, we're sure, Metallica themselves. Maybe the band is trying to forget "St. Anger," but at the moment it's still thrilling crowds with the classics, and until its next album arrives, we say (to purposely cop the pun) that nothing else matters.


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