Poland had to wait two years to have Metallica visit our country for the ninth time in history. For the second time they played as a part of the Sonisphere Festival held at Bemowo Airport in Warsaw. I'm sure that a "regular" Metallica would bring thousands of people anyway, but the band decided to make this special show even more attractive and play the whole Black Album. I don't know if they wanted to expiate after the Lou Reed collaboration, but I thought it was a good idea to enrich their live performances, even just for one tour.
But Sonisphere Festivals are a lot more than just Metallica or any other headliner (for example Iron Maiden last year). The other bands on the bill were Machine Head, Black Label Society and Gojira. There were also four Polish bands that played on Antyradio Stage, which is basically a smaller stage that was active during breaks between the main stars of the day. Unfortunately, I didn't attend any concerts held at that stage, but I heard that Acid Drinkers, Hunter, Luxtorpeda (who struggled with some technical difficulties) and the Antyradio contest winners Cinemon lived up to the crowd's expectations.
The first band to take the main stage was Gojira. I must admit I am a huge fan of these guys and it was my first time seeing them, so I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, the conditions were not perfect for them - bad sound, really hot weather, poor attendance and lack of visualizations behind the stage. Nevertheless, the Frenchmen delivered a really solid show. It was obvious that most of the attendees didn't really know the band's catalogue, so the musicians did their bands to convince them that they were a part of the Sonisphere Festival for a reason.
They started with "Oroborus", which was a perfect opener. Gojira focused on their last two records, 2005's From Mars To Sirius and 2008's The Way Of All Flesh, as 6 out of 8 songs they played were from these albums. Those songs were "Backbone", "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe", "Flying Whales" (skipped the intro to this one), "Toxic Garbage Island", last song of the show "Vacuity" and the aforementioned "Oroborus". They also managed to squeeze in a piece from their debut album, "Love". But with all honesty, the song that sounded most powerful and made the biggest impression on me was the title track from their upcoming CD "L'Enfant Sauvage". This made my anticipation of this album grow even higher. In general, a really good performance despite unfavorable conditions. But I'm sure that to experience Gojira's full power, one has to visit one of their headliner shows, most likely in a much smaller venue.
The next group to take the stage was Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society. I won't lie to you - this was the band I was least wanting to see out of four that day. I mean, it's not that I DON'T LIKE them, it's just I don't LIKE them, if you know what I mean. So I wasn't expecting anything special, and nothing special did I get. Again, the sound was rather poor, so it was hard to hear if Zakk was singing at all, not to mention what he was singing about. The overall performance was OK for me, so no time wasted, but the band didn't manage to make me listen to them on my own. I think it is fair to say that it was the least energetic band that afternoon, they rather focused on playing their parts than entertaining the crowd. I really liked the Indian plume Zakk was wearing during the first two tracks, which were "Funeral Bell" and "Crazy Horse", but I think that after taking it off Wylde could focus on singing than preventing the plume from slipping down. I recognized some tracks, such as "Suicide Messiah", "Concrete Jungle" or probably the band's biggest hit "Stillborn", but the rest was completely unknown to me, so let me just rewrite them for you from Black Label's official setlist: "Bleed For Me", "Overlord", "Parade of the Dead", "Fire It Up" and "Godspeed Hellbound". They kinda merge into one song, but that's probably me not knowing Black Label Society, because their fans were pleased. The only thing I found annoying was Zakk's guitar solo. He was showing his incredible abilities in solos in songs, so why waste time on doing practically the same thing again? If it was more entertaining and interesting I probably wouldn't be whining right now, but for me it was unnecessary.
The time has come for the almighty Machine Head. I sincerely love Robb Flynn & Co. and their last three albums, along with their debut, are one of the pieces of art I come back to most frequently. I did have the pleasure of seeing them live once before. It was in 2008 when they were promoting "The Blackening" and - surprise surprise - also performed as a support of Metallica. But then, their show was spoiled completely by the sound engineer, who let us hear only bass drum and Flynn's voice. Four years later, the sound was much better, but in the beginning the volume of Rob's guitar was constantly changing as if the engineer couldn't decide whether to make it too loud or too silent. Anyway, these minor difficulties didn't ruin the show, which turned out to be excellent. And thankfully, they had much more time than their predecessors, as 75 minutes is enough to create an interesting performance.
Machine Head are still promoting last year's successful album "Unto the Locust", so no wonder they started with "I Am Hell", which is probably the best song off that record. And the band didn't stop for most of their set, as one cannot simply stand still when listening to "Beautiful Mourning", "Aesthetics Of Hate", "Halo", "Imperium" or "Davidian". For obvious reasons, the Americans focused on the records I mentioned earlier. I don't think that songs off Supercharger or The Burning Red would be greeted as warmly. But we mustn't forget that Machine Head came to Poland in support of their latest effort, and it was supported properly, as they decided to play five songs out of seven that are on the CD. Apart from the opening track, we got to hear "Be Still And Know", "Locust", "Who We Are" and "Darkness Within". The last one received the best crowd response.
Out of the three bands that performed before Metallica, Machine Head was easily the best. The energy, the setlist, rendition of the songs - all were perfect. But there was one thing that affected the show in a negative way. It was the fact that the band didn't use broadcast screens. There were nearly 50 thousand people at the show and it's obvious that many of them didn't have a clear view of the stage. And while we could watch Gojira and Black Label Society on these two screens, Machine Head decided to put there some useless stuff. I agree that sometimes visualizations help bands express themselves, but in this case it was just wrong. The visualizations themselves were really poor and didn't mean basically anything, and for about 1/3 of the show there was only the logo of the band displayed. So this one thing sucked, big time. Nevertheless, the musicians did a great job and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.
The time has come for the band probably 99% of the crowd gathered at Bemowo Airport for. I realize that The Four Horsemen get shit for basically everything they do from many people. I must admit I sometimes become one of them, be it bitching about some of their records or laughing at Lars' drumming or facepalming at some idiotic actions/statements. But every time I see them live (this was my fourth time seeing Metallica) they make me realize two things. One, they are absolutely amazing live. Two, their music is fucking timeless. The 10th of May at Bemowo wasn't any different. Yes, they made some mistakes (not to mention Lars' double-bass during "One"), James is not top-notch vocally anymore and so on, but the thing is that I had so much fun that I didn't care. Besides, it's really hard to complain when the show starts with "Hit The Lights" and is later followed by "Master Of Puppets", "The Shortest Straw" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls". You may like Metallica or not, but these songs are classics and were extremely influential to the development of the metal scene worldwide. Another thing: during the first three bands, the crowd was absolutely lifeless. It was hard to find any moshpit, even during Machine Head, whose music is designed for killing each other under the stage. During Metallica the crowd remained lame, but at least it was loud and the overall impression was much better.
The first part of the show ended with "Fight Fire With Fire", which was quite a surprise, as I think they don't play it that often. Then the band left the stage and a short movie was played. It consisted of some behind the scenes footage and tour shots, all concerning the Black Album. To be honest, it was a bit too long, but ended with an intro to "The Struggle Within", so I couldn't wait to hear this song. It turned out that the band decided to play the whole Metallica at once, but in a reversed order. I think it was done this way mainly to have "Enter Sandman" end the show, but that doesn't really matter. I never would have guessed that there is so much power hidden in tracks like "Of Wolf And Man" or "My Friend Of Misery". It's really hard to point out better parts, so let me just say that the whole album was played perfectly. Of course, crowd participation was best heard during "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters". After finish the Black Album the musicians left the stage for a short while just to return with "Creeping Death". I was used to hearing this piece right at the beginning of Metallica's set, so it was quite a strange feeling to hear it during the encore. Then we were all witnesses of a great pyro show which meant that we were about to hear "One". Besides the pyros, during the whole song an amazing number of laser beams were dancing above the crowd. A great thing. There was only one song that could end the whole festival properly: "Seek & Destroy", of course its elongated version. And it was over.
No matter what you say about them, Metallica are incredible. I forgot about any other band that had performed that day the moment The Four Horsemen took the stage and it stayed this way until the very end. I'm pretty sure that I will still be moaning about some albums and Lars and Lou Reed etc., but when they return to Poland, I will be there 100%.