The summer is coming to a close for Irish hard rock fans, but not before metal giants Metallica returned to Dublin’s Marlay Park for the second year running, with a medley of impressive support acts in tow. Despite Lamb of God and Thin Lizzy dropping off the bill, this promised to be an essential live event for those with a penchant for rock. Unfortunately, these things don’t always go to plan. The day had promised to start well for Irish rockers Glyder, in what was undoubtedly the highest point of their career here to date. After slogging it on the live circuit over the last number of years, Glyder deserved this high profile slot but unfortunately, sound problems plagued their set and continued to blight much of the performances to follow.
While Mastodon can be a baffling prospect on record, the thought of seeing them do their prog metal thing live is still appealing. Regrettably the sound problems from Glyder’s set continued unabated and much of their set amalgamated into one indistinguishable medley of feedback, roars from frontman Troy Sanders and a much too loud bass overload. Although the likes of ‘Blood & Thunder’ allowed minor sparks of guitar-led brilliance to shine through the cracks, overall it was far from a memorable performance. Even though the band delved into their back catalogue and played a selection of tunes off each album, with non-existent crowd interaction and nothing to get the fans going, Mastodon just weren’t on top of their game.
In their second Irish stint on a tour with Metallica in recent years, Alice In Chains played a triumphant mix of greatest hits with tasters of their upcoming album Black Gives Way To Blue. Opening with a trippy ‘Rain When I Die’, the sun shone down on a set which relied heavily on Dirt-era material, including a note-perfect ‘Them Bones’ and a rocking rendition of ‘Dam That River’. New single ‘A Looking In View’ and the first ever live outing of ‘Check My Brain’ stayed true to the AIC legacy and easily meshed with the well-worn back catalogue, heightening anticipation that the new record (the first in over a decade) will be well worth the wait. Working the stage and interacting with the throng, new vocalist Will DuVall more than proved his competency in filling Layne Staley’s shoes, particularly as he split harmonies with Jerry Cantrell on ‘Would?’ and ‘Angry Chair’. Clad in all black, sporting an MC5 t-shirt and leather jacket, DuVall was the definition of nonchalant rock star cool. Finishing off with a beautiful version of ‘Rooster’ it became clear that – musically anyway – Alice In Chains should’ve been the headliners.
To have Avenged Sevenfold up next was a ridiculous case of bad scheduling. Heavily tattooed and offering a barrage of expletives between every song from frontman M Shadows, Avenged Sevenfold came across as though they had hardly rehearsed, amounting to an overlong, style-over-substance set which lacked any genuine passion. Despite the obvious flaws in this band’s artillery, their minor team of support on the day clearly got what they came for with the pit going wild during ‘Eternal Rest’ and throughout the endlessly screechy ‘Scream’. Highlight of the hour-long set came when a young Irish lad was plucked onstage to perform the first verse of Pantera’s ‘Walk’. Instead of cowering at the back as expected, he managed to upstage the band by giving it his all regardless of the 45,000 spectators and did a better job of the Pantera classic than Avenged Sevenfold in 2006.
After an endless soundcheck which failed to improve the sound situation, Metallica bounded onstage and launched into a storming ‘Blackened’. Playing the inevitable ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ just a few songs in managed to stop the endless chants for it as witnessed in years gone by and the band kept older fans sweet by hitting them with less likely material like ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and ‘Harvester of Sorrow’. So far so good.
Death Magnetic may have redeemed Metallica in the eyes of many after the diabolical St Anger and nondescript Load/Reload, but in the live setting tracks from this record were simply lost under the weight of Metallica’s seminal output from the 80s. Despite James Hetfield’s energy, the trio of ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’, ‘All Nightmare Long’ and ‘Cyanide’ plodded along in typical middle of the road fashion, simply adding fuel to the fire that this band’s best days are well and truly behind them. As always, the Black Album was revisited with the obligatory ‘Enter Sandman’ along with the far superior ‘Sad But True’ in a setlist that was just too similar to last year’s and the gig in 2006 before that. In essence, this could have been any one of the band’s previous gigs in this country in the last five years.
Criticism aside, it’s hard to fault Metallica’s onstage prowess – the sheer professionalism and presence of the band has made them an act that fans return to time and time again, regardless of increasingly inflated ticket prices. For newcomers to Metallica, this was an incredible showcase of a metal powerhouse at work; particularly at moments like the explosive live staple ‘One’, complete with fireworks display. Unfortunately, as displayed by the endless stream of gig-goers leaving the site surprisingly early into the set, Metallica have suffered from overkill due to the frequency of their coming to these shores in recent years. What could have been a spectacular platform for a new record and a celebration of their innovative history amounted to a strong case of undeniable deja vu.
Photos: James Goulden