Archived Concert Review
An Evening With Metallica
Cumberland County Civic Center
February 27, 1992
Metallica was the baddest and scariest band in the world (save maybe for Slayer) to an impressionable 19-year-old in February 1992 when I took my then-girlfriend to their Wherever I May Roam tour in Portland, Maine. Fresh off the release of their self-titled fifth record (aka: The Black Album) the previous August, the band was taking advantage of the serious buzz the record generated by selling out arenas worldwide. The Cumberland County Civic Center was about to have its roof blown off and I was about to witness the greatest concert I will ever see.
The stage was revolutionary for 1992, a diamond-shaped platform, allowing for 360-degree viewing for both the band and audience. Microphone stands littered the stage, assisting band members to remain within arms reach of a mic whenever needed. Large lighting trusses were also mobile, lifting from the stage to reveal the band at the show’s beginning, while rotating and angling to provide special effects throughout the concert. Drummer Lars Ulrich came with two drum kits that raised through the floor of the stage and pivoted to allow him to play to different sections of the crowd. Meanwhile, the stages’ centerpiece was a chiseled-out section in the middle, called the Snake Pit, reserved for radio contest winners and hand-picked overly enthusiastic fans, giving them the opportunity to witness the show from Ground Zero.
There was no opening act on this tour. Given Metallica’s status as the emerging biggest rock act in the world, there was no support band that would fit the bill. This would be a self-serving three-hour victory lap(s) around the stage. In lieu of a band to throw stuff at, fans were treated to a 25-minute documentary about the band and its history. The highlights of the movie were when the live cameras took over from the dressing room and we were greeted by the band members themselves, complete with enough bravado and vulgarity fit for a group of 20-something year-old-musicians. Us teenagers ate it up.
The familiar Metallica intro song, Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold came on, accompanied by Tuco (Eli Wallach) running through the cemetery from the movie, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly on the video screens. It was time! The lighting trusses lifted, and the band launched into their huge (and then current) single, Enter Sandman. It was clear that this was going to be a special night.
Creeping Death, Harvester of Sorrow, and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) brought things to an early fever pitch, before we were given a dose of newer material, including, Sad but True, Wherever I May Roam, Through the Never, and The Unforgiven. It was obvious by the fans singing along that most in the crowd were plenty familiar with the new stuff. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield’s sarcastic introduction to Sad but True (“It contains three simple words”) left no doubt that even the uninitiated would be able to participate.
As was the concert norm back in the day, the band provided the obligatory solo sections, including a Jason Newsted bass solo and a Kirk Hammet guitar showcase. Meanwhile, Ulrich performed a short drum solo, before engaging in a duel with Hetfield, who, on the spare drum kit, more than held his own. Personally, I think these solo sections slow momentum, although with a show as long and sweaty as Metallica’s, I can give the band a pass.
The show rose to an entirely new level once the solos were complete. I’ll give Metallica credit. While a 10-minute guitar solo can indeed kill momentum, all it takes is a few classics to rev things up again. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Fade to Black, and Whiplash more than did the trick, the latter ending with a climatic pyrotechnic blast from the back of the stage.
Metallica could be forgiven if they walked off the stage for good at that point, its faithful exhausted and satisfied. However, they were merely getting started. Master of Puppets and Seek and Destroy came next, with the Kill ‘Em All classic coming as an 18-minute singalong, as Hetfield took a microphone around the stage and encouraged (bullied?) the audience into shouting out, again, “Three simple words!” As if that wasn’t enough, he climbed into the crowd and elicited lucky random fans to shout the words with him.
The band exited the stage again, but only temporarily, as they returned following a two-minute series of intense pyrotechnics and fireworks, a display that would make most town’s Independence Day celebration proud. It was almost a given at that point that One would be next. Strobe lights and a final pyro blast in sync with the phrase, “Landmine, has taken my site…….” brought the band’s (up to that point) biggest hit to a mesmerizing crescendo.
But they still were not done! A rapid-fire trifecta of Last Caress, Am I Evil, and Battery brought the house down, before the band delivered their final number, a cover of Queen’s, Stone Cold Crazy. That was it. We had nothing left. Not the band. Not the audience. I recall looking around the arena and seeing everyone in a universal stupor.
My girl and I drove home. She was a true metalhead and Metallica was her favorite band. Yes, she was also the same girl who made me take her to see the Scorpions (see the review I wrote about this show) just so she could see Trixter. Perhaps this is proof positive that I will never figure women out, but I digress. On this night, we couldn’t stop talking about how amazing this show was, an impression that has remained to this day. This show is available on YouTube, and whenever I watch it, I am transformed back to the night I saw the greatest concert of my life.
Harvester of Sorrow
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Sad But True
Wherever I May Roam
Through the Never
Justice Medley (snippets of Eye of the Beholder, Blackened, Frayed Ends of Sanity, And Justice for All)
For Who the Bell Tolls
Fade to Black
Master of Puppets
Seek and Destroy
Am I Evil
Stone Cold Crazy