Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
author MIN date 03/02/17 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN
”World premiere!” “Monumental!” “History!”. Expectations were sky high this Friday, when Metallica was set to open the brand new Royal Arena in the outskirts of Copenhagen. So, how did it all work out? The arena had cost about 1.4 billion DKK and when looking at the roundhouse from the outside, one can’t help but be fairly impressed by the huge but streamlined bulk. On the inside, it is probably most comparable to Stockholm’s very own “Globen” with its aisles and stairs twisting up and down across floors. At first, everything honestly seemed to work out fine. Getting inside the arena took less than two minutes, standing in line for food or beer about the same, and it was easy to get around.
However, some things were bound not to work out on the arena’s first night open. The wardrobe, consisting of lockers with a MobilePay-system, didn’t work due to lack of internet connection, and an employee had to open the lockers manually. Furthermore, the floor was divided into two different sections due to Metallica’s (impressive) stage being placed in the middle instead of in the rear end. What did this mean? Well, if you and your friend had bought your tickets separately, chances are that you weren’t allowed onto the same floor, as people with “Entrance B” couldn’t enter “Entrance C”, and vice versa. I heard several complaints about this, and such errors should be straightened out if the arena plans to host other concerts with the stage placed in the middle. But let’s find out how tonight’s bands fared in this setting.
Having existed for almost twenty years, Danish thrash metal band HateSphere seems like a good choice for tonight’s opening act. Despite several lineup changes (only guitarist Peter Lyse Hansen remains a constant from the very beginning), tonight the band still feels vital and relevant. Vocalist Esben “Esse” Hansen does a good job at running all around the huge stage while trying to engage as many people as possible in a 360-degree radius and the band delivers tight grooves, thrilling riffs and well-executed solos. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at how good their show is, and you can definitely tell by the audience that I’m not the only one. The beers are a-flowing and the fists and horns are a-throwing – in fact, the only problem during HateSphere’s set is tonight’s main attraction, the Royal Arena itself.
The sound is hollow and it’s hard to follow every detail that the band obviously delivers. Furthermore, the volume is too low and the bright lights from the arena’s electronic billboards destroy the intimacy that the darkness could’ve provided. Thus, an otherwise excellent set from one of Denmark’s premier metal bands is inhibited by horrible conditions. Still, when “Sickness Within” fills the room, not much of the crowd really cares about bad sound and instead decides to have a damn good time. Well done, HateSphere.
“Maybe they didn’t fire on all cylinders…” and “…maybe the sound will get better once Metallica takes the stage!” were some of the sentences I heard before Ennio Morricone’s classic “The Ecstacy of Gold” blared through the speakers, warning the band’s entrance. But the sound didn’t get any better – it was, however, much louder. Metallica launched straight into “Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise!” off their newest album, ”Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, which honestly felt a little too rushed, and once “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Fuel” came around, increasingly more people seemed to realize that something was off. After “The Unforgiven”, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich shared what looked like a grave conversation, and the former of the two finally admitted that the band “sounded bad”. He apologized for not being able to deliver what both the band and we have come to expect from the band. Apparently, Hetfield had fallen ill but still decided (prior to the show) to play. Now the fate of the show was in our hands: should Metallica go on or stop the concert altogether? James Hetfield honestly looked like a man who would’ve preferred if we told them to stop, but obviously the crowd roared for more. Therefore, the band kept going.
There’s something incredibly sad yet inspiring and strikingly humane in seeing an icon like James Hetfield falling short of his own expectations. I’ve never had more sympathy for the guy than I have tonight, and although I still firmly believe that he should’ve stopped the show, I’m impressed by the fact that he made it through the night. Unfortunately, the night just goes to show that Metallica without its primus motor is an occasionally embarrassing outfit. Granted, after a horrible rendition of “Now That We’re Dead” and a below-average shot at “Moth Into Flames”, “Harvester of Sorrow” shone bright in the night. Furthermore, it felt like the crowd tonight had only become even more engaged in singing along to help Hetfield get through most of the lyrics throughout the set. But why, oh why, does both Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo have to play solos in-between songs? Especially the latter's solo was cringeworthy and void of any purpose at all, and it should've been cut from the set entirely. The fact that a fight between several people right next to me got started didn’t help my impression of the poor effort, but let’s not take that into account.
Lars Ulrich was too often either too fast or too slow on the drums, and it was hard not to take note of the many mistakes that both Hammett and Hetfield made in several songs. That Hetfield wasn’t able to sing was fully understandable, but why Hammett had to mess up so many notes in both “Fade to Black”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” (where the usual firey explosion had been exchanged for hot steam) is a mystery – you should think that the guy knew them by now. Both “Master of Puppets” and “Seek and Destroy” are respectfully delivered, but when the show finally comes to a stop, I can’t help but be a little relieved. Metallica without a doubt has the material to make any show good, however average the delivery, but the concert was carried by the crowd’s dedication to the band by far. The Royal Arena put on a disappointing sound tonight that only got slightly better throughout, and I really hope that whoever is in charge will take note and try to improve what has been the biggest disappointment, musically, that I can recall in a long time. I will award the show some bonus points for Hetfield and the audience’s admirable relationship between each other, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say that tonight was a big let down. Yes, the arena and its huge screens above the stage look spectacular, but when so much emphasis has been put on the fact that the creators behind the arena wanted to make it acoustically spellbinding, its hard not to feel disappointed.
- 1. Hardwired
- 2. Atlas, Rise!
- 3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
- 4. Fuel
- 5. The Unforgiven
- 6. Now That We’re Dead
- 7. Moth Into Flames
- 8. Harvester of Sorrow
- 9. Confusion
- 10. One
- 11. Master of Puppets
- 12. Fade to Black
- 13. Seek & Destroy
- - Encore
- 14. Battery
- 15. Nothing Else Matters
- 16. Enter Sandman