Metallica Plays in Peoria

By Alun Thomas


Never far from the headlines are Metallica, currently making news for their film documentary ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ which documents the troubled last three years of the band, through James Hetfield’s stint in rehab for alcoholism, Jason Newsted’s departure and the tiffs between Hetfield and Lars Ulrich while creating 2003’s ‘St Anger’. It has led to more derision for the legends from metal quarters, critics mocking the bands self serious image, especially former Metallica member Dave Mustaine who has gone public stating he never wanted footage filmed of himself included in the movie, which of course it was leading to him stating he never wants anything to do with Metallica again.

Amidst this, Metallica has been touring the U.S. all summer, the mammoth ‘St Anger’ tour reaching Peoria on August 24th supported by Godsmack. It was Metallica’s first show in Peoria since the ‘Black’ album I am informed, a long overdue performance.

Despite the unfair thumbs down for ‘St Anger’ and ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ the fans still come to support the band live in droves. I still hold ‘St Anger’ in high esteem a year plus since its release, for me the best album of Metallica’s career alongside ‘...And Justice For All’. Previous reviews of their live shows indicated a dearth of material played from ‘St Anger’, a shame, almost as if Metallica were trying to please the simplistic fans who rejected it for unknown reasons.

The show was held in the ‘round’, which provides a wonderful view for everyone in the arena, but separates the musicians too far a distance, not providing opportunities to observe their musicianship as a unit regardless of the multiple camera angles available on the video screen. Once on stage Godsmack ran through a compulsory hits set including ‘Awake’, ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Straight Out Of Line’, which pleased the fans, but left miserable old me sitting in my seat unmoved. It’s hard to force enthusiasm for a band you don’t care for, even if all surrounding you are standing simply because they think they have to.

Godsmack came and went, leading to an hour wait for Metallica as the stage crew tinkered endlessly with their complicated set, what with the abundance of lights, explosives and cameras required for the superstars. As the biggest metal band in the world, Metallica can make the fans wait, simply because the urge to see them is so great. It fell well short of the mark set by Slayer when I saw them in 1999 between sets, their wait almost two hours.

Metallica has been opening shows with ‘Blackened’, but sadly opted not to here, leading off with thrash classic ‘Battery’ from 1986, a heavy way to open the show. What transpired was largely predictable, set list wise, with every album represented except for 1996’s ‘Load’, which I’m sure no one missed.

Fan favorites such as ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Sad But True’, Nothing Else Matters’, ‘One’, Wherever I May Roam’, ‘Master Of Puppets’, ‘Fade To Black’ and ‘Seek And Destroy’ kept the casual fan entertained, all played with enthusiasm and vigor, surprising considering how worn out the band probably is of them.

I know I am.

‘St Anger’ was highlighted by the title track, ‘Frantic’ and the timely ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ ( performed live for the first time in any capacity by the band) all three coming off as more aggressive than the rest of the live songs, the crowd typically unresponsive to them. The crowd came alive for ‘Fuel’ and ‘The Memory Remains’ from 1997’s ‘Re-Load’, brainwashed by years of radio abuse I claim. A pair of classics from 1984’s ‘Ride The Lightning’ kept die hards happy, ‘Trapped Under Ice’ (rarely aired live) and ‘Fight Fire With Fire’, both played with the same abandon as they were 20 years ago. Throwaway cover ‘So What?’ made an appearance as did ‘No Leaf Clover’ from 1999’s ‘S&M’, hardly the stuff dreams are made of.

The band’s performance was hard to fault, all giving their best and as heavy as ever, playing to the fans who gave them a reception that bordered on fanatical. Their every move was greeted with raucousness and I found it interesting watching Ulrich work his drum kit as he battered it into submission. Hetfield is a masterful frontman, saying all the right things and treating each song as though he was singing it for the first time. Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo are first rate musicians, both on form, the latter a natural fit for Metallica.

My only real gripe was the sound and the predictable set list.

The Peoria Civic Center always provides a muddy bass heavy sound, making songs indecipherable. It would have been good to hear lesser known tracks like ‘Shortest Straw’, ‘Frayed Ends Of Sanity’, Holier Than Thou’ and ‘Purify’, but you can’t have it all.

A stellar show that puts to rest all of the controversy that continually surrounds Metallica. It’s the music which takes prominence and that’s what the band excels at, not Lars selling off his artwork collection for millions of dollars. With the devotion shown the band despite the fans constant griping, they can’t do much wrong. Their reputation exceeds anything. The fans keep coming back, no matter how much they say they hate the new music or how they sold out all those years back. This evening proved that.

Even as the band left the stage for the final time no one had left.