hello, cape town!

March 26, 2006

Democracy has meant wonderful things for the people of this country. Just this weekend, f'instance, I was able to stroll a few pleasant blocks and watch one of the biggest bands in the world thunder through a 2 hour set for the benefit of 20 000 delirious white people. Oh, and there's that whole vote thing too, obviously.

Like I said, pleasant – and considerably enhanced by the fact that I arrived at Saturday's Coca-Cola Colab Massive Mix just in time for the main event, bypassing the queues and several hours of sun-baked tedium as every laaitjie within a 100 km radius waited anxiously for Metallica to take to the stage. Judging by the number of TT's and Beemers in the parking lot, their parents were there in full force, too. And so, of course, was everyone who has ever lugged an amp to the garage in the name of rock 'n roll. As a passing label owner noted, 'it's like Arties*, only bigger".

A quick poll suggested that we hadn't really missed out on anything by turning up late, although Lee Lips graciously conceded that Seether "were better than Michael Bolton." Michael Bolton, it transpired, was actually Ed Roland, vocalist for Collective Soul. I caught the last few songs of their set. Professional. Friendly. Bland. Everyone else must really like them, though – the audience sang along with the kind of gusto normally reserved for the Lumberjack Song during Rag Week. I would have joined in and all, but I was too busy evading everyone I've dated in the last 5 years.

There's a longstanding complaint – emanating from the support slots, mostly – that the headlining act's guitars are always turned up one louder, and Metallica were no exception. As the opening chords of Blackened parted the dry ice, I was a little surprised to discover Billy Crystal had replaced Lars on drums, but no one else seemed to mind, really. Then, midway through the third song, Harvester of Sorrow, I went deaf in one ear. At least that's what I thought had happened, but it turned out that the power had been cut to the right-hand side of the stage. After a few minutes, and to chants of “Eskom, Eskom” from a bemused crowd, the band lurched back into action. The momentum had clearly been lost – the sound was choppy and the band tight but workmanlike. It was only during Sanitarium, as Kirk flicked back his locks – a ray of light arcing off his ESP KH-2 M-II, and blinding Rob Trujillo mid ugga-ugga face – that everything dropped into place with a melodious clang.

Y'know – I was as bummed as the rest of you by the whole Newsted / Bob Rock thing, but when Rob isn't swinging from lianas or scraping his knuckles along the stage – seriously, the guy looks like a Jamie Hewlett cartoon – he plays the bass with the grace and ease of a Bolshoi-schooled savant. He's pretty damn awesome, actually. Somewhat surprisingly, the setlist steered clear of much of their commercial stuff, opting for a heavy ride through Metallica's earlier output – including the really thrashy stuff, which caused some pants-wetting among the purists immediately to my left. And the band looked as if they were as pleased with the results as we were. The only album that didn't get much of a look-in was St. Anger. Which is good. Because the album isn't, really.

Lastly, if anyone else is thinking of calling to tell me that I missed a chat with monkey-man Trujillo at Green Point Market the next day by electing to stay home and do my laundry: thanks, but the prospect of all that ironing is depressing me enough as it is.

~*~

*For those of you who had less complicated childhoods: Arties Cellar Pub was tiny, dank venue in the kak part of town that must have hosted every two-bit punk and metal band in the country during its 'heyday' in the early to mid 90s. The ceiling was so low that punters invariably left with their mohawks flattened to one side. S'true.

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