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My Metallica experience went something like this: I downloaded St. Anger on a whim in my first year of university, listened to them for the first time, and was blown away by how awesome it was (before I continue any further let me assure you that I know much better now). I then went on to borrow the band’s entire discography from a post-graduate friend – who still listened to them on his trusty old Discman – and proceeded to devour the entire thing over the next couple of months. All this happened when their soon-to-be ninth studio album was still in its infancy and Mission: Metallica represented the zenith of artist-fan online interaction. It was, as I now believe, a particularly good time to become a new Metallica fan, as the development of Death Magnetic - famously billed as Jaymz and co.’s attempt at constructing a second half to Master of Puppets - also brought with it a strong degree of hype that had been virtually absent throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

When Death Magnetic eventually came out I jammed it so much and so hard – godawful mastering and all – I wouldn’t be surprised if this mild ringing in my left ear is a direct result of listening to that album a few times too many. Fast forward a few more months to November 2009, and the World Magnetic Tour was already on my chilly Ottawa doorstep. I recall turning up to class the next day with a throat that was extremely hoarse, and to discover that no fewer than a fifth of my Geology class had also attended that gig at Scotiabank Place. As we caught each others’ eyes and sighted tour t-shirts from the merch booths at regular intervals throughout the hall, a communal bond quickly developed between us all – one that went beyond our shared capacity of desiring to be professional rock lickers. As our own Channing Freeman once remarked in a particularly existential Ride The Lightning review: metal is strength, metal is solidarity, metal is acceptance.

The concert venue – Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

Considering the fact that they’re easily one of the biggest bands in the world, Metallica’s track record of touring the Asian continent is surprisingly poor, with Japan being the only nation able to make any sort of claim towards being a somewhat regular destination for the thrash metal juggernauts. But the men of Metallica seem intent on smashing through as many geographical boundaries as possible as they trundle into the twilight of their careers. As recently as 2011, the four-piece played in both the United Arab Emirates and India for the first time ever, and earlier this year, reignited their ambitions for world domination by adding yet another Asian leg to their tour schedule and kicking it off with nothing short of a two night stand in both Japan and the People’s Republic of China. Elsewhere, they also found time to revisit Singapore and Indonesia for the first time in decades. Frankly however, what mattered most to me was that Malaysia also managed to snag its fair share of the action this time.

For their debut performance in this South East Asian nation of just over twenty-seven million, Metallica was to perform at the historic Stadium Merdeka, erected in 1957 for the occasion of the Federation of Malaya’s declaration of independence. I thought it was particularly fitting, as there’s probably no better way to play to a country than at the very site on which it was birthed. Elsewhere, the days leading up to the band’s arrival into the country also went down surprisingly smoothly – which is no mean feat considering that this is the same nation which, famously, almost managed to ban Avril Lavigne from performing on the grounds that she was “too sexy” for our societal sensitivities. It frankly wasn’t too difficult to imagine some momentum-seeking politician somewhere suddenly choosing to crack down on these heavy rockers who had once earned the moniker of “Alcoholica” in their youth.

All systems go for Metallica and co.

That being said, it is fairly common knowledge that Metallica have become a more refined force these days. In contrast to their halcyon days of the mid-to-late 80s, the band’s modern live spectacle has mellowed down to the point that it has even become vaguely family-friendly. Don’t get me wrong: the technical skill, grit, and passion remain, but the furious – sometimes even alienating – brutality of their Ride The Lightning and Damaged Justice days have long since disappeared. In its place a more audience-friendly outlook has emerged, one whose zeitgeist is symbolized best by vocalist James Hetfield and his immense ability to forge interpersonal connections with his audience.

In any case, the 21st of August began in rather spectacular fashion, with concert organizers Galaxy Group announcing at the 11th hour that they had confirmed local thrash metal maestros Cromok  as the evening’s opening act. Although it has been well over seven years since their last studio release – 2005’s Misery + Raw - the four-piece continue to maintain a solid fanbase across the country.

Cromok takes to the stage.

But while the band was clearly not in its prime, what with the members visibly gone to seed a bit and all (an observation underscored by the fact that their opening set consisted of only four songs and barely lasted thirty minutes), the Cromok sound, so similar to the Bay Area thrash metal scene, was more than enough to get the crowd going. Vocally, old Sam Cromok was still at his peak, throwing his trademark guttural yells down the microphone with enough force and vigour to make his band’s big night out a roaring success. I personally thought that they did particularly well, especially considering that the bulk of the crowd had no idea that the four-piece would even be performing at all.

Cromok

The Malaysian rockers departed the stage at about 8.00 pm to solid applause from the crowd, which very quickly settled into its groove of general restlessness once more. We didn’t have to wait long though, for the dimming of the house lights and the opening notes of “The Ecstasy of Gold” – the Ennio Morricone track that often heralds the arrival of Hetfield et al. – appeared at roughly 8.40 pm – a full twenty minutes of schedule. The din which this cavalry of 25,000 Malaysians created was madness – completely outstripping that of my previous date with Metallica in Ottawa 2009 (which had taken place in a enclosed hockey arena filled to capacity). Talk about a throng impatient to break its 31-year Metallica fast!

At the final crescendo off “The Ecstasy of Gold”, the lights swung around again, revealing the four American musicians who had just crept on stage. With the ease of a journeyman who’s seen it all, James Hetfield assumed his position at the mic and popped the Malaysian Metallica cherry by starting out with the opening leads to Kill ‘Em All opening track ”Hit The Lights”. But while the song probably wasn’t a particularly good show-opener or even one of the band’s more classic numbers - the best adjective I’d prescribe to it would be “vintage” – you wouldn’t have been able to tell that from the way we lapped it up.

No life till leather.

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

“Hit The Lights”‘ ended, as is customary, in a blaze of chaos typified by the blistering punishment that Hetfield and Hammett delivered to their guitars. There was to be no let up however, as the tail end of the number segued immediately into “Master of Puppets”. Now, say what you want about the man’s drumming ability, but there’s no denying that Lars Ulrich’s signature fist-pumping to the opening bars of “Master of Puppets” has become a part of Metallica’s stage presence, and the crafty Dane warmed hearts by playing out his usual role with much gusto.

Because, you know, it isn’t authentic unless there’s the Larz seal of approval on it.

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

According to the setlists that I had been tempted to study prior to the start of Metallica’s Kuala Lumpur show, a song from Load or Reload would be up next, and being a fan of setlist rarities, I was strongly hoping to see a song like “Until It Sleeps” or perhaps even “Carpe Diem Baby.” Unfortunately however, Metallica chose to take the populist route on the night and treated the crowd to a (pretty stellar) performance of “Fuel” instead. That being said, the performances of both “Harvester of Sorrow” and “Ride The Lightning”, which followed,  definitely ticked a few more things off my Metallica bucket list.

Rob Trujillo – wielding his bass of doom.

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

I also thought it would be interesting to observe how the songs of Death Magnetic were holding up nearly five years after their release, particularly in light of the fact that Metallica is absolutely notorious at eschewing their post Black Album material entirely (hands up those who have heard live performances of a St. Anger cut). To that end, it was interesting to see them choose to perform “Cyanide” about a third of the way in. Now, I’d have expected either “My Apocalypse” or “All Nightmare Long” to be doing the concert rounds at this point, but in listening to “Cyanide” again that night I soon realized that there song’s natural groove and particularly infectious opening riff lent it a stadium-friendly outlook, which bodes well for the future – not something you can say very often when it comes to a newer Metallica cut (I should also note here that “Broken, Beat & Scarred” has also seen a lot of airtime on this particular tour).

How do I taste?

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

That being said, the most interesting performance of the night for me was probably the unexpected appearance of “Orion” about midway through the night’s set. For some reason, I had previously conceived of the instrumental as being the weakest out of Metallica’s holy triumvirate (i.e “Orion” + “To Live Is To Die” + “The Call of Ktulu”), but its performance on the night changed my opinion entirely. I think it was at this moment that I realized that the Metallica of old really knew what they were doing. The guitar parts on “Orion” channel so neatly and so easily into one another, its no wonder the song’s auditory narrative is a logical, yet absolutely thrilling one. Elsewhere, Ulrich’s drum parts – although relatively simpler in comparison to some of his other works – had a vital sense of mobility about them. I may have just argued in favour of the preservation of Death Magnetic cuts just a few sentences above, but I’ll be first to admit that the more dogged moments of that album probably came as a result of incompatible riffs being stitched together into a pastiche of sorts. And you simply don’t see stuff like that on a song like “Orion”.

Orion

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

In any case, the closing half of the night played out like a greatest hits tracklisting – “One” appeared after “Orion”, and quickly crossed over into “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. This couplet was in turn tailed by “Blackened”, after which Metallica chose not to buck with tradition and performed “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” within seconds of each other. The latter song was notably host to the night’s loudest sing-a-long moment, with its simplistic chorus serving as a catalyst for some South-East-Asian crowdsourcing.

I hope that sign says “THROW ME YOUR DRUMSTIX” and not “SHOW ME YOUR DRUMSTIX” #awkward.

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

The more astute readers will have noticed that I have not made any reference to band-crowd interaction at this point, but as I recall, Hetfield was significantly less chatty on the night. True, he had opened “Harvester of Sorrow” by teasing the Malaysian crowd and asking if they had “been waiting long” for Metallica to arrive in the country, but there did seem to less banter going back and forth between him and the crowd that night. I have to admit that it did make me wonder if Metallica might be self-censoring themselves for fear of offending any latent sensibilities (silly, I know), especially in light of the fact that none of the songs performed that day featured their usual slew of gratuitous profanities. But I shan’t dwell too much on that. In any case, I had been hoping against hope for another rare number to be played in the customary encore, but it was not to be – perennial favourites “Creeping Death”, “Battery”, and “Seek & Destroy” closed out the Americans’ performance that night.

For all my musings on the lack of direct interactions between Metallica and their hosts, the night did end of a pretty warm note – the band retrieved a flag of Malaysia from the audience at show’s end and held it up to loud, sustained applause from the gathered throng. Hammett and Trujillo even tried for a bit of Malay – the latter pulled off a pitch-perfect “Terima kasih!” (“Thank you!”), while I suspect the former was trying for a “Goodnight” but only the gods will ever know what he meant for he got no further than “Selamat…” (which is the word customarily used to open a Malaysian greeting) before blushing a deep red, grinning sheepishly, and blurting out, “THANK YOU!!!”. Bless his soul. Judging by the laughter and applause though, all was probably forgiven. It’s hard to stay angry at old friends, after all.

But while it may have taken them a bit too long to come around this side of town, I think I speak for many of my fellow concert goers when I say that it was probably more than worth the wait. Here’s hoping that the next trip won’t be when I’m a grouchy, pauchy fifty-six year old.

Metal Militia Malaysia

(Photo courtesy of Metallica.com)

As an interesting side note, this is the view across where I was sitting the night of the concert:

See that water tower? During the concert it was packed full of illegal viewers; there must have been fifty of them – around the water tank, on top of it, you name it. Those daredevils have my thumbs-up for displaying some local ingenuity – seats in that area cost RM 350! (USD 110)

-

Metallica Live in Malaysia 2013 Setlist:

Hit The Lights
Master of Puppets
Fuel
Harvester of Sorrow
Fade to Black
Ride The Lightning
Cyanide
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Sad But True

Orion
One
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Blackened
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

- Encore -

Creeping Death
Battery
Seek & Destroy

Yup, you know I had to XD





Irving
09.05.13
Over two weeks late but here it is - enjoy!

Smial
09.05.13
ban them

Keyblade
09.05.13
Haha love the drumsticks caption, great writeup dude. Fucking great setlist too, kinda regretting that I skipped this now damn.

SCREAM!
09.05.13
Haha I was at that same Ottawa show in 2009

Seeing Orion live sounds like an amazing experience especially considering the circumstances of this show

Irving
09.05.13
@ Smial - I see wat you did tehr

Irving
09.05.13
@ Keyblade: O yeah you definitely should have been lol. To this day I still want to know who told you LP was their opening act. Like wtf what was he smoking lmao.

@ SCREAM: EHHHHHH you be from Ottawa?! Wow how come I didn't know that!

Keyblade
09.05.13
It was some dude in my Behasa class who I'll prolly never see again the punk lol

Irving
09.05.13
Behasa???

SCREAM!
09.05.13
Yup. I moved here back in 2000. I've actually met 4 other people from here at various shows. We might just have the highest sputniker per capita rate of any city.

Keyblade
09.05.13
Bahasa Melayu dude

Crysis
09.06.13
Awesome work, loved reading this

Green Baron
09.06.13
nice

it sure seemed like concert was decent

someguest
09.06.13
Ending with "Seek and Destroy" was probably the best thing ever huh?

MO
09.06.13
i like irving

Gyromania
09.06.13
haven't read this epic post, but hopefully they left grandpa at home this time (lou reed)

NightmareCinema16
09.06.13
Sounds really cool. Setlist looked great too.

someguest
09.06.13
GIMME FUEL GIMME FIRE HAND ME A QU'RAN

OOOOHHHHH

NightmareCinema16
09.06.13
The same country that banned Lamb of God from performing the concert, and Led Zeppelin from ever leaving the plane because their hair was too long. Makes sense.

Gyromania
09.06.13
that's fucking ridiculous... did that actually happen? the latter, i mean

NightmareCinema16
09.06.13
My bad. It was actually Singapore that didn't allow Led Zeppelin into their country. They never got out of the plane. Because they didn't cut their long hair. Feb 14 1972. And I wasn't surprise about the Lamb of God ban either.

Irving
09.06.13
I love you too MO ;)

KILL
09.06.13
sweet

Irving
09.06.13
Do I have some of your respect at long last, KILL?

sonictheplumber
09.08.13
youre malaysian?

Voivod
09.08.13
Awesome job Irving!

Alternate title for the piece: Metallica: Too Big To Get Banned In Malaysia.

Irving
09.09.13
Yes I am, sonic.

Also - thanks Voivod! Glad you liked it!

demigod!
09.09.13
i was at that Metallica show at Scotia bank. it ruled, one of my fave shows. Metallica was my favourite band for years so it was really special

sounds like you had a great time! that setlist is killer. when I saw them they played a lot of DM stuff, but it was alright because they balanced it with several classics and even a few Misfits covers!.

Irving
09.09.13
I GOT SOMETHING TO SAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

;)

Voivod
09.09.13
Awesome song, recently I bought "Garage Inc." compilation.

Irving
09.12.13
That's a great covers album. I wish they'd played something from it that night.

Voivod
09.12.13
Yeah, Metallica make foreign songs their own. Easily.

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