Last September, when the world biggest metal band announced a string of summer stadium dates across Europe, the collective knickers of their fans became more than a little moist. Even more so when the full touring line up was confirmed including Ghost; the most talked about band in the industry over the last few years, and Bokassa; the Norwegian stoner punks who have taken the word by storm since they burst into the scene just two years ago.
Whilst this tour rolls into the U.K. for a small handful of dates in June, here at The Revival we wanted to get a head start and hence find ourselves in sunny Barcelona for the third show of this three month long jaunt. The Olympic Stadium atop Montjuïc is the setting, the 60,000 plus capacity venue the chosen location for the second Spanish date.
The sun is still bearing down on us, high in the sky as Bokassa take to the stage. Jørn Kaarstad has a grin
from ear to ear as the band launch into ‘Last Night (Was a Real Massacre)’ to kick off the day with a burst of energy. The band have just half an hour to impress, this is their chance to win over masses of fans prior to their sophomore album's release, due out in a matter of months. And impress they do! There is a frantic potency around their performance that gives the fans something to feed off. Despite the majority of the crowd probably being unaware of the band prior to today, Bokassa were welcomed with open arms and cheered off as saviours from the closing notes of ‘Walker Texas Danger’. A triumphant start to the day.
To see a Ghost headline show is to witness a masterpiece in theatrical heavy music. So how will a support slot outdoors before the sun has set live up to the headline shows we’ve witnessed of late?
The answer is incredibly well. The huge stage set and production effects may be absent, but the large stained glass backdrop sets a tone. Cardinal Copia is somewhat more cheeky and mischievous than his predecessor, Papa Emeritus III. Newer material ‘Ashes’ and ‘Rats’ kick off the performance before ‘Absolution’ has the crowd singing along and the pyro beings.
It’s from here that the set gets familiar, which is not a bad thing, ‘Ritual’, ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’, ‘Cirice’ and ‘Year Zero’ all give the fans that familiarity and if there’s anyone out there yet to fall in love with the Cardinal then this performance is surly one to win them over. Using the runway to full effect both Copia and the Nameless Ghouls run out to through the crowd and into the arms of their adoring congregation.
Their sound stands them alone, a band you cannot pigeon hole; they are heavy, they are melodic,
sometimes they are even operatic. There is no one like them and that’s what makes them just so good. Following a saxophone solo from the aging Papa Nihil there is the darker heavier tune of ‘Mummy Dust’ and the rounding out at a magical hour with ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘Square Hammer’. Undeniably this band are majestic, not quite managing the following of tonight’s headliners just yet, but their time will come soon enough.
As the sun dips behind the horizon and the early summer evening chill breathes across the stadium AC/DC’s ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’ rings out getting the crowd singing and a Mexican wave streaming round the bowl of the grandstands. When this tune plays there is only one thing coming next... Ennio Morricone ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ the second part of Metallica’s traditional intro. The backdrop flicks into life, a huge electronic screen plays a flicking image and an intro tape rolls (not the last of the evening) as the band burst into life with ‘Hardwired to Self-Destruct’. And ‘The Memory Remains’ crowd pleasers for the latter day fans, but the thrashers in the audience wait with baited breath.
The wait is not long, ‘Ride the Lightening’ shows the band have lost nothing in pace and aggression. James’ handlebar moustache and Kirk’s flowing grey locks a sign they are no longer spring chickens but musically they still have it. Next ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ makes its first live appearance for more than six years, changed up from the original, James uses an effects pedal on his voice, heightening the drama and suspense of the song.
Another taped intro leads into ‘The Unforgiven’, the tape intros strange given they replace the simply played intros of the past and leaving a strange pause/miss-step between them and the live music starting. ‘The Unforgiven’, a track 28 years old this year leads into a splattering of newer tunes. Much as the arena shows of two years ago Kirk and Rob get a section to shine without James and Lars. First the cover of
local Spanish classic ‘El Muerto Vivo’ which has the Barcelona faithful singing along before Rob’s bass solo through ‘Orion’.
Throughout the show the visuals provided on the back drop are staggering as are the pyros, seen in full effect in the ever present ‘One’. A second drum kit set up at the end of the runway gives Lars a chance to interact with the crowd for a few songs through classics ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘Master Of Puppets’ and ‘Seek and Destroy’.
With midnight fast approaching the set shows no signs of slowing down, but the end is nigh and they round out proceedings with the anticipated ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. Whilst you could bet your life of the final two songs, the band remain as unpredictable as ever. Forty years into their career and you don’t get the same set list two nights in a row. This is band who can change it up and keep their fans fully enthralled night after night.
The U.K. dates will arrive in just a few weeks, you can assume those last two tracks will appear at those dates too, but what else they give us is anyone’s guess. Time after time Metallica prove they are the best band in the world by far, and we can’t wait for them to roll into town.