Great Western Forum; Los Angeles, CA; 03/06/04

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

At the risk of sounding like an old fuck, the last time I saw Metallica live was in June of 1986 when the band opened for Ozzy Osbourne at the Long Beach Arena. I remember the thrashing crowd at the time, moving like a roiling sea of humanity, as this (at the time) up'n'coming band drove the audience to insanity.

A lot has changed for Metallica in the years since, so it was with great eagerness that I finally decided it was time to pay Metallica another visit.

My timing couldn't have been better.

With their new, "in-the-round" stage set and apparently rediscovered love of metal, Metallica took the stage at the Great Western Forum, ripping immediately into "Blackened." Their onstage fury never let up from that point on, as they tour through classic songs from their impressive catalog, including a rare performance of "Dirty Windows" from their latest CD, "St. Anger."

The stage and set were jaw-dropping. In the center of the square stage was a large round circle. At the 12 o'clock position sat Lars Ulrich's drumkit. As the band played throughout the evening, that circle rotated so that - at some point during the evening - Lars' kit faced every possible audience angle. In addition, eight large video screens constantly projected live images captured by cameras mounted on microphones and drumkits, as well as by the (at least) four cameraman roaming around the outside of the stage.

The action onstage was nothing short of stunning. As the band ripped through song after song, the audience was treated to huge fireballs, sparkling fireworks and huge explosions, especially just before the band played the highly anticipated "One."

I haven't seen a show this sophisticated and elaborate since KISS's "Alive II" stage. 

Speaking of KISS, Metallica are very much like that band was in its earlier days. Like early KISS, every member of Metallica is essential to the success of the live performance. James Hetfield's frontman energy and unmistakable vocal style drew the audience into the action. Kirk Hammett's furious, razor-sharp guitars amazed. The energy of Lars Ulrich at the drumkit never flagged for an instant; he's not one of those drummers that can sit behind the kit all night - he has to get out and become part of the show. And newcomer Robert Trujillo, crouching around the stage like a heavy metal version of Gollum, pounded his bass mercilessly.

The huge stage left lots of room for the band to roam as the concert progressed. Throughout, the audience was with them, moshing in at least two places for each and every song (even "Nothing Else Matters"!). Highlights of the evening were the aforementioned "One" and "Creeping Death," both of which brought the fans to a fever pitch. To be brutally honest, the energy level did dip a bit during the performance of the title track, "St. Anger," but only a bit. And, as much as I love the song, "Enter Sandman" has probably been played to death. It did not have the impact it once would have had.

By the time the band completed their set, with a raging cover of The Misfits "Die Die My Darling" and an impossibly fast version of "Whiplash," Metallica had proven that the words of Sully Erna of Godsmack, who opened the evening, were exactly true. Said Erna: "Pantera says they're the kings of metal. And I'm okay with that. They are the kinds of metal. But ... if they're the kings, then Metallica is God."

By the way, you can download this performance and many others by visiting

Speaking of Godsmack, their performance as opener was nearly as impressive as Metallica. Playing a number of their most well-known hits (i.e., "I Stand Alone," "Straight Out of Line"), Godsmack put the massive stage to their best use, sprawling around and delivering a high-energy performance. Despite the high standard and audience familiarity of their most popular numbers, however, the highpoint of Godsmack's performance was a duel of drums between drummer Shannon Larkin and frontman Sully Erna. Godsmack could have just come out and played 45 minutes of stuff from their CDs; instead, they gave the audience something fresh and new. It's probably difficult to open for a band like Metallica but Godsmack made their mark nonetheless. 

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Copyright 2004 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:15 -0400.