I was there. I was there! I saw them live, in the flesh and heard them play, perform, in their own voice, and with their own instruments, all those songs that I had listened to all these years over and over a thousand times through lifeless mp3 files now full of vibrant life. I saw them wave their hands and throw Guitar picks at us. I heard James Hetfield shout "Metallica loves you, Bangalore...!!!" Yes, it was an event that transformed statues of wax to life and my world of music will never be the same again. What transpired on that chilly evening of the 30th of October 2011 at the muddy Palace Grounds, Bangalore, was all part of a dream realized in living proof that some hopes, wishes and dreams do come true. When the lords of metal descended upon the rock capital of India, picked up their instruments and strung their ethereal riffs, it was salvation for their armies of fans who had been patiently waiting for 30 years and two hours dreaming to get a glimpse of them in the flesh. This was a dream I thought I would never live to realize, a very improbable event that I and many others like me could only think about with a sigh and a sad smile, an event that even in the wildest probability theorems had no real chance of actually taking place. But it happened. And all my life, I can say now: "I was there, to witness the first Metallica concert ever to take place in India!
30000 tickets were sold for the Bangalore concert and 10000+ visitors from the cancelled Gurgaon concert trooped in as well. The gates opened at 1500 hrs and two bands from Delhi and Bangalore kept the crowd occupied till 1800, when the rains came calling and raged for 15 full minutes. However, the fans stood their ground soaking in the rain which chilled the air and turned the sprawling Palace Grounds from a dust bowl into a regular slushy mud pit. The crowd kept swelling by the minute but stood patiently waiting. People on stage cajoled fans to move away from barricades and walked around the stage plugging and unplugging cables, setting up equipment and conducting sound checks. All eyes were glued to the stage, expecting James, Kirk, Rob and Lars to walk on any minute. But that wait stretched on and on, and the crowd waited disciplined and patiently on tiring legs in the mud for a full hour. Then, after what seemed to be an eternity, almost without warning, the huge LED screens came to life with a scene of Clint Eastwood lighting a cannon and amongst a thunderous roar the four ran on stage and started off with as is tradition, the instrumental rendering of "Creeping Dead" aka "The Call of Cthulhu". It had started! The show progressed through "For whom the Bell Tolls", "Fuel", "Ride the Lightning", "Fade to Black", "Cyanide", "The Memory Remains", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "Sad But True", "All Nightmare Long (From Death Magnetic)", "One", "Master of Puppets", "Blackened", "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman". The crowd came up as one requesting an encore and the band wound off with "Am I Evil" (originally by Diamondhead), "Battery" and "Seek and Destroy". It was all over.
The roar never subsided for those epic three and a half hours as the ocean of black wearing fans, 40000 plus in number, sang along as one, air-guitared, headbanged, shouted and screamed, jumped up and down and the ocean was converted into a storm of mass euphoria as Bangalore was baptized in metal. We throbbed as one, the energy present palpable, you could almost feel the electricity in the air. As far as the eye could see were thousands of human bodies squeezed together standing on tiring legs in a mass off mud, water, sweat and smoke which no one noticed in the bliss of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The sea of black never stopped shouting and screaming, swaying and jumping while pulsating in unison to the riffs and beats rolling off the instruments and the speakers. There really was no place to stand, forget jumping around, headbanging or air guitaring, but it really did not matter. Yes, Nothing Else Mattered. It was a feeling beyond description, one I am not completely free of yet, like a three-day hangover.
"Why," many people ask, "is a music show my some random band such a big deal?" Well. Why do the "cricket is religion" people consider Sachin Tendulkar as "God?" Why do people seemingly want to go to war in support of their favorite film star? I am not going to scream any presumptuous answer like "Rock is religion!" or "Metallica is God!!", but let us just say that they have a place in history as one of those artists who, for many, defined a genre of music and whose lines and riffs connected with and influenced hundreds of thousands of people across age groups over a couple of generations (there were people who were 60+ at the concert). Be it growing up or growing old listening to them, they stuck a chord with the young and the old alike, defining angst and spirit for them respectively. Metallica will go down in history as one of the most defining sounds of hard rock/metal and for their ultimate powerhouse concerts.
There was a cloud of doubt cast above the concert after the Gurgaon incident, but hope sprang eternal, and the whole event went off without a glitch. The crowd was amazingly the most orderly and disciplined of this size I have ever seen in my life and that too in India! Barring some minor incidents here and there, there were no serious fights, pushing and shoving, stampedes etc. We were all one family, in the words of Hetfield himself, the "Metallica Family!" No one ran or was in a hurry. Even the not-so-metalheads who came around, like the "To be here is the 'in' and 'cool' thing" types, the indifferent "what is the big deal" types, the wannabe blackmarketers, freeloaders, photographers, chick-checkouters, fashionistas, I-came-becuase-XYZ-came tag-alongs and wannabes were pulled into the delirium and went home content and somehow, changed I guess. There were some black spots though, like all the mindless excessive swearing (mc/bc - you get what I mean) for apparently no reason, which had to be put down swiftly with strong words. They were not from here anyway, and in my opinion they should be shown their place and told to keep their culture to their place. All in all, Bangalore, I am proud of you! We all are proud of you! For making this event such a resounding, ROCKING success, that the world sat up and took notice. As for me, though covered half body in mud with aching legs, arms, back and neck, I feel like a stone has been lifted from my heart, and now that one of my life's ambitions have been achieved, I can now move on to do more things. Yes, I am at peace.
P.S. After the Gurgaon concert was cancelled, apparently Metallica wanted the Bangalore concert to be called off too, citing security concerns. DNA threatened them with a lawsuit, after which they agreed to play. There was a certain coldness in their approach at first, but Metallica later warmed up to the audience, and it is commendable that Hetfield kept a sober tone doing or saying nothing that would incite the crowd. I hope they appreciate the great show that we have put up, and I would say this was the best show Bangalore ever has seen!
Thank you Metallica! And please be back!