Small venues have their charms, but stadium satisfaction is where it's at!

Metallica at Gillette Stadium Foxborough, MA ~ May 19, 2017

I like everything about the fragrant dives and bleachy-clean mid-sized venues where I spend an inordinate number of my nights. Cheap tickets often cost less than the cheap drinks, friends, the pictures and that madly musical mix sweet spot 23 feet out from center stage. So, with that disclaimer, the following may sound heresy; but, in a life full of small venue riches, every now and again, I love a big outdoor stadium show, and Metallica at Gillette Stadium is a case in point.

Stadium shows demand a commitment, right from the start. You need to convince people to go because of the level of night out you’re proposing. After all, you have to spring some cash and weasel out of work to get an early start. Then you hit the road – blast the set list, open the windows and the sky gets bigger. The road, well that is usually another story. Leave at 2 arrive at 5 if it doesn’t go your way. Best to have a crew with you to tell stories you’ve heard a million times and you still want to hear it again. Once you get there everyone will be tailgating like it’s a Pat’s home game. You eat the subs. Drink the Tequila, the ice cold Bud and a puff a cigar in the heat (or whatever else you keep in the trunk with the red plastic Solo-cups). Tonight there is occasional talk in the crowd about Chris Cornell’s unexpected sad trip off the mortal coil. Soundgarden and Audioslave float up like spectres here and there through the Metallica parking lot din. And we again all hang on that fantastic, unmistakable voice.

There’s no passing up the opener today – Volbeat from Denmark. What is it with the endless excellent Nordic Invasion? They dedicate a song to Cornell and turn a little hard rockmetalgaragepsychobilly set with a few big, catchy choruses thrown in, in case you forget that this is all about a serious good time.

Gillette is a beauty when the lights go down. It’s 66 degrees and clear. Everybody agrees that the stage show is “‘uge, ‘uge.” Scrims and screens bring the cheap seat in and immerse the floor in sound and vision. Metallica hit the Cinemascope stage to strains of Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The crowd feels it in their collective DNA and ooh oooh’s along. Eli Wallach runs across the graveyard. The place is pent up packed ass to elbow and feels like a conference final.

“Hardwired”, the title track from Metallica’s current disc, hits like the flyover, a Doppler moment that doesn’t pass-by, but stays stuck at its crescendo. The sound is massive in the sweet spot. It never flags. The locals are head bangin’, and the denim and leather girls are shoulder riding but the pit stays up front.

This is where stadium shows come into their bombastic, communal glory. At dusk, the headliner hits their stride: The volume, Hetfield’s massive riffs, Lars’ fractured full speed ahead drumming, and Kirk Hammett’s solos sear everything in front of them. Trujillo’s bass passes through your chest like demons from the Arc of the Covenant. You feel the heat from the pyrotechnics on your face. Lasers shoot from front to back create a shifting lattice ceiling that both defines the space and makes it deliciously alien. You’re outside. The weather is perfect. The band careens through their long legacy: “Atlas”, “Rise!”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Fuel”, “The Unforgiven”,” Now That We’re Dead”, the excellent new “Moth Into Flame,” “One”, “Puppets”, “Seek & Destroy”, “Sandman”….

I don’t want to hit a big show every weekend. But, you can’t beat a good rockin’ road trip with the right bands, crew, person, place and weather waiting at the end. Got some great metal under the stars with a bunch of likeminded crazies? Count me in. I’ll drive.