Having lived in Hollywood North my whole life, it’s almost inevitable that I’ve worked a couple times as an extra on film and TV shoots around town. It’s almost like everyone's civic duty. As you’d imagine, these were long days mostly spent waiting around for a few two-minute bursts of action when the cameras rolled. The job was basically boring, but it made for an interesting day off from my regular job. The pay was OK, and I got fed, plus I might see myself on the teevee sometime.
Monday night’s Metallica event felt almost exactly like being on the set again, except on a much larger scale. Also, there was no catering truck, and we sure as hell wouldn’t be collecting a paycheque. The dynamic was exactly the same, however: brief outpourings of energy followed by long waits where we watched men wearing headsets run around and fuss with cameras.
The show was billed as a “3D Movie Shoot” and all tickets were 5 bucks. Proceeds went to the Vancouver Food Bank, which was a classy move on the band’s part. Metallica had already played two “real” shows on the weekend that were also filmed (read Kyle Harcott’s account here). This extra show presumably gave them a chance to shoot additional coverage and footage that wasn’t possible to get during the other shows. I was fully prepared for it to be a little unusual, and went in expecting to be at the mercy of the film crew. You know, maybe there’d be a camera occasionally blocking the view, or they might need to stop the show a few times to try a new setup or something.
We were there for four and a half hours. And I thought 1991’s “Evening with Metallica” Black Album show was a marathon. Pah, that went by in a blink of a gnat’s eyelash compared to this. Things got underway with the Assistant Director coming out, thanking us for coming and explaining there would be a lot of breaks in the action. He also asked us to keep our energy levels high—which sounded like a reasonable request at that point—and avoid looking at the cameras, which would be swooping around on booms and traversing the arena on wires.
The lights went down and the band came on and played “Creeping Death” and, wow, it felt just like a Metallica concert! My buddy on my left was snapping pictures like a madman, as he does. The beer-guzzling Australian guy on my right was yelling all the lyrics. Dennis from Sinned was whipping his hair around a couple rows down. It was a totally authentic concert experience for six minutes and thirty-six seconds. Who needs 3D movies; I'd gotten in to see Metallica for five bucks! The song ended and they started pounding out the intro to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and then… intermission time! The band walked off to their respective offstage areas while the techs paced around dealing with their issues. A few minutes later, the band picked up with the second half of “Creeping Death” then played “For Whom…” all the way through.
And so it went—lights out, a song, then lights up and another long break. Sometimes it was only half a song. They played the first half of “Sad But True” and the last bit of “Nothing Else Matters.” They played “Fuel” and “One” twice. During the audience participation parts, the PA was turned way down so they could get a good recording of the crowd to add to the final sound mix, I assume. As a once-estranged member of the Metallica family, I tried to be a good extra. When I gave up on Metallica after Load, I never imagined that I’d one day find myself warbling along with the Marianne Faithfull part from “The Memory Remains.” But there I was, trying to keep up with my Aussie pal with my out-of-tune “La-da-da-das.”
When they were playing, they were the Metallica we know and (sometimes) love, racing through a pretty decent setlist. Three songs from Ride the Lightning made the cut, along with a couple each from Master and Justice. Between songs the band teased us with bits of “The Call of Ktulu,” “Symptom of the Universe,” and “Oh Well”, but they didn’t give us any full bonus tracks. Everyone in the band is playing well these days. Hetfield’s right hand is lethal as ever. Lars Ulrich looks like he’s playing fast and loose, throwing in new fills and often generally being on the verge of getting crossed up, but he always kept it together.
The songs were good, the band was good. The biggest obstacle to enjoying the event was that it didn’t flow like a concert; there was no build up to anything—so much so that when the band did “Enter Sandman” and the show’s climactic set piece went off, our reaction was more "Wha—?" than "Whoa!" Was the staging really supposed to fall apart like that? Are people actually hurt? After the few hours that had passed and all the distracting technical issues we’d already observed—mics malfunctioning, cameras being dismantled, etc.—the fact that we’d reached the end of the “concert” took a while to register.
By the time they’d wrapped up their Garage Days encore of “Seek & Destroy,” featuring an absurd “Metal Up Your Ass” toilet prop, a good third to half the crowd had left. Some members of the Metallica family obviously had an early bedtime. Those of us who stuck around saw additional takes of the show’s two biggest production numbers. “Fuel” was punctuated by huge fireballs erupting from the stage floor, and “One” started with an elaborate battle sequence made up of explosions, simulated tracer bullets, and more fireballs. With those songs filmed in their 3D glory once again, the AD and each member of the band thanked us for being there, and we were set loose. That was a wrap.
I steered clear of the Stadium SkyTrain station and walked over to Main Street where I could catch a bus home. I felt dead on my feet, famished and weary, thinking I’d never need to listen to Metallica for another 20 years. Right then, a car pulled up blasting “Sad But True.” Fuckin’ A, dudes. You win. I’ll see you at the theatre when the Metallica movie comes out.
(Photos by Ian McClelland. Thanks, JR!)
(Photos by Ian McClelland. Thanks, JR!)