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METALLICA At Slane Castle, Ireland

By Justin Ryan - Dublin, Ireland, Contributor
Monday, June 17, 2019 @ 10:57 AM


Headlining The Slane Festival

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Photo By Justin Ryan

Being regular visitors to Ireland since their debut show here in 1986, there was understandably much frowning among METALLICA's sizable Irish fan base last year when a Dublin show wasn’t included as part of the European Leg of their Worldwired World Tour. When asked for an explanation on the matter, the band's drummer Lars Ulrich commented that Dublin had been considered for inclusion but the stage configurations and production for the indoor stage show being toured would not have been compatible with the dimensions of the 3 Arena in Dublin city. However, much fan disappointment of not seeing that show here was lifted when it was announced that the San Franciscan quartet had been booked to headline the Slane Festival.

The once annual but now occasional Slane Festival is held on the grounds of Slane Castle in County Meath. As the nearest train station to the venue is situated fifteen kilometers away in Drogheda, the vast majority of concert attendees travel to the location by car or bus (private hire or special public). For obvious traffic reasons, the narrow country roads which encompass the venue are locked down by police early on festival day. This results in a forty minute walk (approx) to the venue from the venue's surrounding fields which are turned into makeshift car and bus parks for the day by local farmers. Historically, the biggest complaints about the festival have always been the seemingly never ending queues after the gig for the special public buses back to Dublin and the weather. While he can’t be held responsible for the time it takes at the conclusion of the event to load tens of thousands of fans onto buses back to the capital city, the promoter has in recent years moved the event from being staged in September to June in the hope of better weather conditions; results so far have been mixed.

Tonight’s event (Saturday 8th June, 2019) was not just the largest concert METALLICA have ever played in Ireland, it was also the biggest heavy metal concert that has ever been held here. In addition to their own stadium size shows at the RDS Arena and Marley Park (both 40,000 people approx) staged from the St. Anger album onwards, the only other stadium size heavy metal (not rock, which excludes AC/DC, GUNS N' ROSES, QUEEN etc) crowds that have ever been drawn here were seen at the BLACK SABBATH (Ronnie James Dio era)/ MOTORHEAD show played at Bohemian Soccer Club’s stadium at Dalymount Park, Dublin in August 1983, OZZFEST 2002 at Punchestown Race Track in County Kildare and at IRON MAIDEN on their Eddie Rips Up The World tour at the RDS Arena, Dublin in 2005. However, the attendances at each of those shows were dwarfed by the size of tonight's crowd which was just short of a full house of eighty thousand people. The promoter had announced at last week's press conference that seventy-five thousand tickets had already been sold for the event. With more sales expected in the week of the show, it looked like the event would completely sell out. The attendance numbers being spoken about were absolutely mind boggling when it is considered that METALLICA would usually draw approximately forty thousand people to their shows here. Has METALLICA's fan base in Ireland doubled since their last show here nine years ago? When all of the following is given consideration, it would appear that it quite possibly has: the lukewarm crowd response to the other band's performances, the not cheap price of admission (€113/$125 General Admission to €163/$185 for Gold Circle), the venue's inconvenient location (no close train station, distant parking), the end of day nightmare public transport queues and it being an outdoor event which is susceptible to inclement weather (“it always rains at Slane”). There are those who would suggest that many casual music fans attend the Slane Festival regardless of the headliners but given the above details, it's difficult to believe that forty thousand casual music fans would go to such effort and expense just to hear "One", "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters".

Gates opening time today was 2pm with the first of four support acts, Irish band FANGCLUB, appearing at 3pm. They were followed by BOKASSA and STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. GHOST delivered an hour's set from 6:45pm. Their front man, Cardinal Copia (Tobias Forge) informed the crowd that it was the first time the Swedish band had played a show in Ireland and that he hoped for a quick return here. The muted crowd response to their material was due to either the audience not being fans of the band or not being familiar with their material. Either way, it'll be interesting to see the size of crowd that they do draw when a headline show of their own is announced.

Setlist:

  • "Ashes"
  • "Rats"
  • "Absolution"
  • "Ritual"
  • "From The Pinnacle To The Pit"
  • "Faith"
  • "Cirice"
  • "Miasma"
  • "Year Zero"
  • "Mummy Dust"
  • "Dance Macabre"
  • "Square Hammer"
One hour and further heavy rain showers after GHOST left stage, the headliner's imminent appearance was heralded firstly by taped intro music by AC/DC ("It's a Long Way To The Top"). This was followed by intro tape music of Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstacy Of Gold" and video screen movie footage from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. With the atmosphere in the venue starting to simmer, everything seemed in place for METALLICA to make an explosive start to their show with something really grippingly uptempo, hard hitting and dramatic like "Creeping Death","Fight Fire with Fire","Blackened" or "The Four Horsemen". Many fans thought the latter song would be selected to open the show given that the offficial poster for the event depicted the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding through the grounds of Slane Castle. However, none of the above belters were chosen to open the show. Instead, the third rate song "Hardwired" from their most recent studio album Hard Wired.... to Self-Destruct was selected to kick things off. The track contains one of the lamest riffs the band has ever written and the vocal line, "were fucked, shit out of luck" could be used to succinctly describe the song's quality. Only the group's inner circle would know whether it was the band themselves or a management/record company decision (more on this later) for the concert to be opened with such an unmitigated dud. Either way, the concert was off to a hugely unimpressive start and no amount of explosions or pyrotechnics at the songs conclusion could rectify such a poor opening choice. Although a solid tune, "The Memory Remains"' position on the setlist was also very surprising. As the song is mid tempo, it's choice as one of the gigs openers was baffling.

After such an anti climactic opening, the song that should have got the gig back on track was the third song of the night, "Ride the Lightning". The crowd's reaction to its opening notes was both loud and memorable and the venue started to rock as it should have done from the very start. In a show that included several interesting comments from him, the band's frontman James Hetfield (lead vocals,rhythm guitar) spoke to the audience early in the set. "We feel so blessed to be playing this venue tonight" he informed the massive crowd. He feels, "blessed"? Isn't that the same James Hetfield who co-wrote the song "The God That Failed" which first appeared on their eponymous album released in 1991 and a song which they continue to perform live to this day? Perhaps the onstage/recording artist James Hetfield is a very different man to the offstage one? Has some of the material that they have written and recorded been commissioned by external forces in the first place? A further comment Hetfield made later in the show suggests that external forces play a significant part in the band's activities.

One of the newer tracks that the band selected to record for their 1998 Garage Inc. covers album, "Whisky in the Jar" was then played. Thankfully, footage of the band's promotional video for the same song wasn't shown on the giant video screens. It was bad enough to have seen that utter junk of a video once back in the late 1990's without having to suffer it again this evening. "The Unforgiven" followed and although the band were performing the material impeccably, the crowd's vocal participation in both "The Memory Remains" and "The Unforgiven" was not as impressive as it had been on previous visits here. Perhaps the crowd expected an adrenaline charged opening to the show and felt it was too early in the evening for a mid tempo sing along?

Three of the next four songs were taken from the current record. "Now That We're Dead" sounded great live, as did "Halo On Fire". Bassist Robert Trujillo then announced that he and Kirk Hammett (lead guitar) were "going to do things local style" whereupon the traditional Irish song "The Wild Rover" was played. Whether he intended it so or not, Trujillo's vocals during the tune can only be described as piratical! It was absolutely hilarious! A short piece of "ManUNkind" was then performed followed by a short part of the immense "Orion" during which footage of the late, great Cliff Burton was shown on the massive video screens. It was a nice touch by the band to pay tribute to their former bassist in this way; further admirable behavior was exhibited by the band the evening before when they donated $35,000 to each of two Irish charities at a rehearsal for the Slane show at Dublin's Olympia Theater.

The solid "Moth Into Flame" was introduced by Hetfield as "a song about addiction. And the good news about addiction is you get to pick your own!". "Frantic" was the sole song played from the much criticized St. Anger album. In the one hundred and thirty five shows so far on this tour, the band have only played two songs (of the four worth hearing) from St. Anger on seven occasions. If they intend to play material off each of their records on the tour, why not alternate the songs performed more often? That way, there would be more chance of fans hearing seldom played tracks like "The Unnamed Feeling" and "Some Kind Of Monster" (neither of which have been played live since 2004) from St. Anger or "Devil's Dance" and "Carpe Diem Baby" from Reload.

It was following "Frantic" that Hetfield made a second very interesting remark on the night (the previous one was about being "blessed"). He stated that, "Now we get to do what we want" and the band then delivered five classics successively from their first four albums. "Now we get to do what we want"? Is he suggesting that the band's setlist is subject to outside interference by others, perhaps by those with a vested interest in the band such as their management or record company? If that is the case, the outside interference needs to put a lot more thought into their setlist choices, specifically regarding where those choices are placed on the setlist. The electrified atmosphere created in the venue with the run of songs from "One" to "Seek and Destroy" proves the importance of song position on the live setlist; once the band put their foot to the floor they showed that they can still rock as hard as they did in the 1980's.

Speaking of the song "One", the lighting arrangements during the song were curious whereby green and blue laser lighting was projected in different configurations from the stage lighting rig to the very back of and across the width of the vast venue. In stark contrast to the dramatic black and white used in the promo video for the song (one of their better video efforts), the use of such lighting was just an unnecessary distraction and didn't enhance the music being played on stage in any way. Given the song's theme and content matter, surely the lighting used for this song should be as minimal as possible following the song's opening notes? Wouldn't it be more dramatic and effective for there to be just one solitary spotlight in the whole venue in use on any one of the players on stage at any one time during the song? How about complete darkness in the venue from the start of the third verse, "Darkness imprisoning me" to the song's completion? Wouldn't that be more appropriate than an incongruous green and blue laser show?

After a short pause in the concert the impressive "Spit Out the Bone" sustained the turbo charged atmosphere which had been created over the previous five tunes. If a song from the current album has to open each show on the current tour, wouldn't this song be a far better choice than "Hardwired"? Further use of laser style lighting was used during "Nothing Else Matters"; the band's haters may be disappointed to hear that no mirror balls are currently in use during this song. The eighteen song, two hour concert concluded with "Enter Sandman" and a small part of "The Frayed Ends of Sanity". Overall, an impressive, worthwhile performance was delivered from the band at a spectacular location, although the show might have been even more memorable if they had performed/been permitted to perform the setlist in inversion.

Setlist:

  • "The Ecstasy of Gold"(Ennio Morricone Cover.On Tape,Not Performed Live).
  • "Hardwired" Intro (On Tape, Not Performed Live)
  • "Hardwired"
  • "The Memory Remains"
  • "Ride The Lightning"
  • "Whiskey In The Jar"(Traditional,Cover)
  • "The Unforgiven"
  • "Now That We're Dead"
  • "Moth Into Flame"
  • "Sad But True"
  • "Halo On Fire"
  • "The Wild Rover"
  • "ManUNKIND" (Snippet)
  • "Orion" (Snippet)
  • "Frantic"
  • "One"
  • "Master of Puppets"
  • "For Whom the Bells Toll"
  • "Creeping Death"
  • "Seek and Destroy"
Encore:
  • "Spit Out The Bone"
  • "Nothing Else Matters"
  • "Enter Sandman"


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