Me and Metallica had some good times together. And as tired as it is to discuss how one band or another had some profound impact on one's life, the fact is that Metallica meant a lot to me for a long long time.
As someone who has spent the majority of his teen and adult years defending his questionable tastes, the very presence of that "Ride the Lightning" tape in my collection was a massive validator....even if it did appear along side of various duds by Tesla, Whitesnake, and that preposterous second album by Danzig.
Even with all the kids who scoffed at metal and directed their attention towards bands like the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen and the Smiths (bands that it would take me years to come to appreciate), I knew that Metallica was quality, and that they were doing sometime pretty damned amazing that the "smart kids" were missing out on. I'd like to think they all caught on sometime in college, the same way that I finally begrudgingly accepted the awesomeness of Morrisey, but who the hell knows....Metallica crapped out "Enter Sandman" about a week before I touched down at college, forever damaging their cred to anyone who had worn a stupid patch on the book bag or denim jacket, or sketched a few hundred Metallica logos in their text books).
I guess the point I'm getting at is that this was kind of the beginning of the end of me and Metallica.
Now, this was supposed to be a triple bill with Suicidal Tendencies and Alice in Chains....interesting choice. Restate your thrash cred with the ST crowd, then grab a hold of one of the more interesting alt-grunge-rock acts on the big time scene. Given the number of rich kids and middle-of-the road music fans who had been on the bandwagon ever since the Black Album came out (not to mention that Guns'N Roses debacle), it totally seemed like a good way of staying grounded.
Well, no one knew that Layne would get himself a case of the heroin and not be able to make it, so Candlebox took over the tour.
CANDLEBOX????? Lars must have had his face in a Tony-Montana-sized mountain of cocaine when this decision was made.
(Gah...Fuckin' Candlebox!?!??!? This decision irks me to this day!!!!)
To be fair, Suicidal was pretty terrific. It was a rainy summer day, and everyone on the lawn went nuts, turning the slope on the lawn into a giant mud slide.
But Candlebox was horrible. Mostly, they were just a boring, FM radio band, but the dedication of "Far Behind" to Kurt Cobain was inexcusable. It's bad enough that they were the only 100% non-metal band on the bill, but to then go ahead and invoke the spirit of the guy who kind of single-handedly destroyed metal was a slap in the face. (Yeah, yeah....Nirvana was awesome. That's not lost on me, but it's also not my point).
Anyway, everyone cheered when he made the dedication, and at that moment a lot of my fears were confirmed. There was maybe a split second when the cheers went up when I found myself wondering if perhaps this crowd was especially open-minded for a bunch of metal fans on the East Coast...If perhaps people who loved metal were accepting that punk and grunge were perhaps musical genres that were complimentary and not competitive to that which is metal - not unlike the way that Motorhead and the Ramones are practically half-brothers, or how Mudhoney and the Crue might have actually combined for an enjoyable arena bill, had the record labels supported the idea.
Of course, I was very wrong for that split second. These were not open-minded metal fans. These, in fact, were not really metal fans at all. I was just surrounded by a bunch of Marines, blonde chicks and frat boys who really didn't give a shit about metal, grunge or punk, and who would be just as happy at a John Cougar Melloncamp concert as long as they served beer, and lots of it.
All of this somewhat distracts from my original point, which is to emphasize that Candlebox was the one band that took greater lengths - far greater lengths, in fact - than Soundgarden to at once cash in on 90s metal and grunge at the same time.
Yep, I just dissed the mighty Soundgarden.
On to Metallica's set...
Metallica, unfortunately, was much like Candlebox in that they also were forgettable. The highlight, without a doubt, was the performance of "So What?" during the encore.
The Lowlight? Cramming all the "Ride the Lightning" and "Kill 'Em All" songs into a Vegas style medley. ("Fuel" is great and all, but let's be honest: the fans who bought your albums before you went all MTV/DC101 want to hear more than 75 seconds of "Whiplash". And fellas? PLEASE tell me you've done away with the nut-numbing 14-minute version of "Seek and Destroy"...)
You used to go to a Metallica show expecting to be knocked on your butt. Nothing of the sort happened this night.
On top of it all, Hetfield was still refusing to chop off that fucking mullet. And I could be wrong about it, but I seem to remember that Lars had those goddamned stretch pant-shorts on. It was arguably the peak of Metallica's irrelevance.
Like I said, me and Metallica weren't really ever straight with one another again after that show. No doubt, they have done a handful of things I've enjoyed in the past 15 years. But it's pretty fucking hard to forgive them for boring the shit out of me that night.