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Metal Up Yer Ass


A sans-serif Metallica take over San Jose record store

By Todd S. Inoue

The tattoos were fading, the guts hung low, but 8,000 sun-baked Metallica fans waited intently to greet the return of the Great White Noise. Heavy Metal: the newest, oldest, red meat.

While punk, hip-hop, and even Hootie and his Blowfish gained the attention of music fans, metal went into rehab. Abandoned and scared, nobody wanted to book or play with the red-headed, one-leg-and-a-kickstand stepchild of popular music excess. Past hairboys--from Pantera to Great White--tried to pass as punk and grunge. Nowadays, it's easier to admit being a coprophiliac than being in a metal band.


Metallica, however, never ingested Poison to be Accept-ed among metalheads. Metallica remained hard and unrelenting--a characteristic that hasn't sullied their reputation--while their cronies in the metal world went into a tailspin. The success of the poppier 1991 Metallica attests to that.

And as the saying goes, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and that prophecy came to vivid life Tuesday at the Tower Records at Blossom Hill and Santa Teresa. The long standing m-word band, Metallica, played a brief show on a flatbed truck.


The seeping, sunburnt masses aching for long, involved guitar solos erupted as Metallica performed six songs. Remnants of metal's vainglorious past kept popping up--"show us yer tits," the metal "horn" salute, bad tattoos, 40oz beers in bags, headbanging, and more feathered haircuts than a Charlie's Angels convention. All were displayed with an energized sense of nostalgia and without a scratch of self-consciousness. It was like, wow, I haven't done this in a while and boy it feels good.

The new album Load strips off yet another layer of hardened metal veneer from the San Francisco quartet who are embracing even more pop aesthetics and, gulp, ballads than in the past. Even drummer Lars Ulrich admits he's a big Oasis fan, which back in metal's heyday would be reason for automatic expulsion.


From the reborn sans-serif logo to the alternarock-influenced new single, Metallica are breaking out of the metal cage. On the flatbed truck, the quartet showed off their musical growth while the crowd saved its energy for old flames.

Which Metallica indulged, sticking mostly to tried winners--"So What," "Whiplash," "Creeping Death," and "Sad But True." Two Load tracks--"2 x 4" and the new single "Until It Sleeps"--couldn't satisfy a crowd revving for the high octane energy of "Seek and Destroy."

Most of the crowd, meanwhile, didn't care. A free concert is a free concert--a time to get fucked up and look at chicks (one genius threw a bottle that crashed on stage, almost aborting the show). I can bet that the old school Metallica fans not caught in traffic stayed home to break their copies of Kill Em All.

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