Riding the Lightning

I’m going to see Metallica again.

And by this, I mean I’M GOING TO SEE METALLICA AGAIN! I’M GOING TO SEE METALLICA AGAIN!, and so on ad nauseam. This is very exciting, and very unexpected.

I was having a pretty good day anyway. Coming in the wake of a fairly stressful period, I was determined that it should be. After a pleasant morning of poetry tutorials, coffee with the poetry peeps, and some internet natter with Farah, I got home resolute to take the day completely “off”. I had purchased — at my parents’ expense and insistence — a copy of I Shall Wear Midnight, the latest Terry Pratchett novel, and this was going to be my afternoon. I prepared myself further with the acquisition of a packet of white chocolate Tim Tams and a little 10-pack of Twinings Lapsang Souchong teabags. Anybody who knows me reasonably well will realise that this isn’t all that short of perfection, in my world. Tea, biscuits, Pratchett. Bliss.
And if you were to take one of those people who know me, and ask them what might make a day of tea, biscuits and Pratchett even better, they’d probably think about it for a moment, shrug, and say something a bit like “I don’t know. Metallica?”

Which, unbelievably, happened.

It was when I’d put I Shall Wear Midnight (which had me giggling by the third page, with the mention of the village of Ham-on-Rye) down for the first time in about four hours that it all went even righter. I made some cheesy pasta, and idly flicked through the TV channels as I stuffed myself in preparation to read late into the night. Top Gear was, as usual, the most entertaining thing on, and so I amused myself watching the antics of the three affably idiotic presenters while I ate, while completely ignoring all the bits actually about cars.
And then. Ad break. Normal fare: car and supermarket adverts, annoyingly catchy KFC jingle, insurance angle incomprehensively featuring Billy Connolly. And then. Familiar riffs came pulsing out of the TV speakers, and a voiceover announced: “Metallica World Magnetic Tour, Brisbane Entertainment Centre 16th, 18th and 19th of  October, FINAL TICKET RELEASE NOW ON SALE.”
My gast was flabbered. I knew about the gigs, but also knew that the tickets had been sold out on the day of release, months ago. I’d checked various second-hand retailers online, but when I saw prices around the $500 mark I’d glumly given up, and accepted that this just wasn’t going to happen. But now. I flung my laptop into its bag, and dashed up the hill to the Indooroopilly library — long since closed, of course, but the available wi-fi remains on all through the night. I sat down on a bench in the adjoining cinema foyer, argued frantically with the connection until I got online, and hit up the ticket website. Success. Sweet, sweet, success. 1 ticket, general admission, October 19th.

Explanation? Oh go on then. ‘Tallica, for me, is something huge. I was listening to Kirk Hammett’s solos in “Wherever I May Roam” from the Black album when I first decided that I wanted to play guitar. Metallica took me from being a classic-rock listener to being a heavy metal fan, something which has influenced a lot of my style, my creativity, and even my friendships since. And more than that, their music just makes me happy.

There are other acts that can sometimes captivate me with their sound the same way. Chimaira, Pantera, a few others. But nobody does it quite the same way as James, Kirk, Lars and their bass player of the moment (currently Rob Trujillo, before him Jason Newstead, before him the late Cliff Burton. If anyone comments this mentioning Ron McGovney or Dave Mustaine, though, I will stab them. Live in the present). The huge, chunky guitar riffs, melodramatic lyrics, gutsy vocals and above all the squealing, wah-drenched lead guitar lines of Metallica take me somewhere transcendental, primal and special whenever I hear them. From the groove of “Sad But True” to the swagger of “The Memory Remains”, the frantic technicality of “Master of Puppets”, the delicacy of “Nothing Else Matters”, the epiphanic swell of “One”, that riff from “Enter Sandman”, the scope of the “Unforgiven” trilogy, the snarl of “All Nightmare Long”, from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All right through to 2008’s Death Magnetic… I’m not saying they’re the best band in creation, or anything. Different music does it for different people. But to me, there’s pretty much a folder marked “Metallica”, and then the folder for everything else.

I’m not expecting it to be like the first time I saw them, in Glasgow around a year and a half ago. That was unrepeatable. I actually missed out on tickets for that one first time around as well, and only got to go due to Farah somehow (I genuinely have no idea) tracking one down for me, in possibly the greatest act of kindness ever shown by one human being to another. The gig was unreal, incredible in the literal sense of the term. I’d built it up in my head to be the best thing I’d ever seen, and it was even better. I swear, when Kirk came to my corner of the stage, I understood all those images of screaming Beatlemania. James Hetfield, meantime, is masterful (rivalled only, perhaps, by Corey Taylor, and in a very different way Phil Anselmo) as a metal frontman, that indefinable, charisma-laden art of conducting the crowd from the middle of the stage, taking them on a journey over the course of the gig.

So no, it won’t be that. Nothing ever will be. But I’m still feeling pretty damned excited. Another chance to see Kirk bash out those solos, watch Lars’ ugly mug as he pounds out the simple rhythms that underpin it all, get caught up in Papa Het’s spell, lose myself in some pits, and most of all just hear the songs, those songs, in the way that they’re meant to be heard? Yeah, I’m pretty god-damn psyched.

And just thirteen days to go!

Tallica
314 hours away!
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