Photos by Sean Chin.
I heard Metallica for the first time when I was 12 years old in Tehran, Iran. The activity on its own was an illegal one as the Islamic government of Iran had deemed all Western music unIslamic, morally corrupting, and therefore illegal. The music would be considered specially illegal if it was accompanied by any vocals, and absolutely illegal if it was Heavy Metal. I was arrested for listening to Metallica, and again for wearing a Metallica T-shirt, and was repeatedly warned about the potential dangers of listening to Metallica. Regardless of all the restrictions and the punishments for breaking those rules, the illegal act of becoming a Metallica fan resulted in directing my teenage years towards developing myself as a Metal guitar player and forming Iran’s first Heavy Metal band with a fellow Metalhead. Among our original compositions, we performed a medley of Orion and Master of Puppets which marked the performance as the first time Metallica was played publicly in the post-revolutionary Iran. It kicked started my music career as a Metal musician, until I myself was deemed Westernized, morally corrupting, and therefore banned to record and/or perform my music. It wasn’t long after when I received a summon to appear in court for my “corrupting” activities. I didn’t. Instead, I fled Iran and was human trafficked through four countries to Canada, where I became a refugee. I was 23.
Fast forward 11 years, and I was on my way to see Metallica for the first time at Toronto’s biggest music venue, Rogers Centre. As I walked down Front street towards the stadium, I found myself among hundreds of fans of all backgrounds and ages, wearing Metallica T-shirts to paint the streets black with our unified love for the greatest heavy band of all time. Metallica was back in Toronto with their WorldWired tour, promoting their latest release: Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Accompanied by Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold as solid opening acts in this tour, it was at 9 pm when the lights went off and Metallica’s long-time intro, Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstacy of Gold from the Spaghetti-Western classic The Good The Bad and The Ugly, blasted through the cheers and screams of 60,000 members of the Metallica family who were there to welcome the legendary music act to our beloved city of Toronto. As Morricone’s genius faded, Metallica’s Hardwired intro begun and took the fans straight to the song Hardwired, followed by Atlas, Rise!, both from the band’s brand new release.
“I just gotta say before we go any further” the singer James Hetfield announced after greeting the fans. “Metallica does not give a shit, ok? We don’t give a shit what you’ve done in your life, we don’t give a shit what god you believe in, what food you do or don’t eat, who you voted for … we don’t care about any of those differences. What we do care about are the similarities. Cause we’re all here, right now, tonight, celebrating life with LIVE MUSIC!”
and with that unifying message, Metallica started the iconic For Whom the Bell Tolls, a classic from their 1984 Ride the Lightning record which was followed by Fuel and The Unforgiven. Metallica continued with another new song, Now That We’re Dead, and surprised the fans with the extended drum solo with all members of the band playing epic Japanese Taiko drums. The show then continued with Moth Into Flame, another new song which was also performed during the Grammys with the metalhead-at-heart Lady Gaga as the guest singer. Beside the ocean of sonic frequencies, generated on the stage and resonated across the venue through Roger Centre’s amazing sound system, the visual aspect of Metallica’s performance was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Along with the five gigantic screens that were strategically placed between the iconic M and the last A of the band’s name on each side of the stage, projecting the air-tight synced an masterfully directed visuals to accompany the music, the fire-show aspect of the show was equally intriguing and mind-blowing. Nothing like feeling the heat on your vibrating body, though even without the heat it was the visual aspect of fire that, whether moving across the stage or blowing on the sides like thermal fountains, is going to be remembered as a unique element that is only available to those who get to experience Metallica live.
After another new song, Halo on Fire, and Kirk Hammett’s and Rob Trujillo performance of I Disappear, the band continued with Hit the Lights, the first song from their first album, Kill ‘Em All. After pointing out the awesomeness of a 12-year old at the very front of the stage who was there with his father to experience the awesomeness of Metallica for the first time, James Hetfield dedicated the monstrously heavy Sad but True to all of us who were at a Metallica show for the very first time. “Fuck yeah”, I thought to myself. Metallica then continued with the very well-known Master of Puppets, Fade to Black, and Seek & Destroy to finish the set. But the show wasn’t over. Through the standup ovation and the endless cheers, the band was back on the stage for three more songs: Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, and perhaps their best known hit, Enter Sandman which they ended with the outro of their 1988’s The Frayed Ends of Sanity.
There were, are, and will be many bands and musicians, but there’s always going to be one Metallica. And after experiencing them live, I now know that Metallica is where it is today, perhaps the most successful music act in history, not only because of their unforgettable music but also because of the unforgettable experiences that each of us fans have had with their music for the past 36 years. And despite knowing the songs inside and out after years of living with them, experiencing Metallica live with all others whose lives have been touched by Metallica magic is where it all comes to life. And you should experience it, even if it’s going to be the last item in your bucket list.
Thank you, Metallica! And thanks to everyone else who made the incredible experience at Rogers Centre possible.