The ’90s haven’t been especially easy for longtime Metallica fans. First, 1991’s hugely popular “Metallica” (aka the “Black” album) turned what was simply heavy metal’s best band into pop stars, leading to MTV contests, Anton Corbjin photo sessions and a $40 fan club. More recently, followers’ patience has been tested by two, shall we say, adventurous albums, 1996’s “Load” and last year’s “Reload.”
But it’s been at Metallica concerts where the perceived wrongs have always been made right, where you could always count on the boys to deliver with all guns blazing. So what’s with the acoustic set in the middle of this otherwise rocking Irvine Meadows show, the first gig (after a three week layoff) of the final leg of the group’s summer tour?
After opening powerfully with two old faves, a cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan” and the metal classic “Master of Puppets”; after injecting new appeal into such mediocre recent songs as “The Memory Remains” and “King Nothing”; and after sending everyone into headbanger’s heaven with a sick version of “Fight Fire With Fire,” the band simply let the show’s momentum evaporate during a little-appreciated, unplugged portion that actually had some Metallica fans booing their heroes.
Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell and his band opened the five and a half-hour show (which also included acoustic rockers Days of the New) with a dynamic and well-received performance that was evenly split between songs from his recent solo effort “Bogey Depot” (Columbia) and tunes from the currently inactive AIC.
Highlight of Cantrell’s set though was the Pink Floyd finale featuring excellent takes of “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” the latter featuring animated keyboard player (and former Fishbone trombone player) Chris Dowd adroitly handling the song’s soaring, typically female vocal part.