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Metallica, RDS, Dublin, 20th August 2003

With a career that has spanned over twenty years, Metallica are still one of the world's biggest and best metal bands. While their peers and competitors have either passed on or still continue is irrelevant, because in truth no-one can touch this band. They exist in a world of their own. Their old tour t-shirt with the logo 'Birth, school, Metallica, death' sums them up perfectly. They've been there through it all. They've had their hard times and their good times. With the "Black album" they reinvented metal in the 1990s. With "S&M" they reinvented metal for themselves by using an orchestra, blending high and low culture and spitting in everyone's eye in the process.

Yes, they have made mistakes and slipped up, but they are still going as strong as ever. Through it all they have been Metallica and that's why this gig sold out three times. They had to keep releasing tickets because everyone wanted to see Metallica. Yes, the big boys of the nu-metal scene, Linkin Park, were there, but I doubt if very many paid in especially to see them and you can be damn sure no-one went home after LP played their set.

Billed as the being part of the Reading/Leeds festival, you could tell there wasn't a lot of Irish organisation going on at the back of this. The bouncers treated the punters like real people, there was taps set up so you could get water without having to queue (it was a hot day) and no matter where you stood in the venue, you could see the stage. Fantastic.

Up first were the so-called saviours of rock music (why is it every five or six years rock needs saving), The Darkness. Now I will admit that I haven't heard their album yet, but I am familiar with their material and I have mixed feelings towards it. 'Growing on me' is a great song with some brilliant OTT falsetto vocals and a mad crazy rock solo, that sounds like big rock music should, so that was obviously the perfect choice for them to open their set with. People danced. People sang. People laughed at Justin Hawkins in his cat suit. People sniggered at their pirate-like bassist, but people had fun. The thing about a Metallica show is that no-one gives a shit about the support, but it is fair to say that The Darkness did lift a few hearts and injected some fun into the day.

Which is much more than can be said about Linkin Park. Bounding onto the stage with their endless energy, they were greeted by a very mixed reaction. Some people cheered, a lot booed and the majority stood facing the stage with their arms crossed waiting to see what was going to happen. Linkin Park had one chance and, if they messed up, they were going to be playing to a very empty field. Firing on all cylinders, they opened their set with the leading tracks off 'Meteroa' and, for a while, they were good.

They were never spectacular, but they were alright. Then the bottles started hitting the stage. And the band. This continued for their entire set and, while it was funny, I'm sure it pissed of the people who wanted to see them and were enjoying the set. I would say the majority of the crowd got bored after around a half an hour. Five or six songs in, and I had spent enough time in the Park. The next hour and a half were spent getting away from the stage. LP should not be let play at shows like this.

To the piped in sounds of 'The Ecstasy of gold' came Metallica onto the stage, just as darkness was setting in. The place went apeshit and Metallica tore into 'Battery' like they were playing before the demons of Hell themselves. Without even a pause for air, 'Master of puppets' kicked in and floored the audience into submission. Pits broke out in patches and chants of 'Master, master' went up from every corner. For the next two hours, Metallica wowed the audience, tearing through a classic greatest hits set. The only songs aired from 'St. Anger' were the fiery title track and the monstrously heavy 'Frantic', with 'Fuel' (complete with massive chorus and flames) being the only song from the poor "Load"/"reload" years.

James Hetfield, now freshly sober and looking all the better for it, stormed his troops though such classics as 'Creeping death', 'Harvester of sorrow', 'Nothing else matters', 'Seek and destroy' and 'Blackened'. 'For whom the bell tolls' was led in by Rob Trujillo belting out a frantic bass solo and it turned into one of the night's best songs. Trujillo appears to have slotted perfectly into the group and, tonight, they were as tight as they have ever been. The only fault with the show was the hanging speakers tended to sway a bit, which made the sound cut out occasionally. This would be okay if it wasn't for the 'ping' of the drums echoing off the back wall, behind the crowd. If you turned your head at all to the side you could hear the annoying echo ruining the song.

Still, though, the problems were few and the band was in a killing mood, stamping down anyone who would dare say they have nothing left in them. Besides how can you find fault with a group who finish up their second encore with a full version of 'One' including explosions, flames and spiralling firecrackers that they must have been able to see in Ballymun, then concluding with the massive 'Enter Sandman'. Pray they don't leave it so long before coming back again.

Ken McGrath.

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