• What a night!
  • What a night!
    Written by Rat
    Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:39 am

    I haven't been to bed. We drove most of the day yesterday to get to Warsaw for a historic concert (...and what a concert!) and then drove all night to get home again.

    The concert was, I think, the biggest event I've ever been to and without a doubt, easily the best. 6 hours of live music from some of the world's most famous metal acts. The show started about 2.30 when Behemoth played a short set (about half an hour) which, though well received, was missed by the majority of the crowd. The masses hadn't crossed national boundaries to be here for them.

    After a half hour break to set up equipment Anthrax took the stage with Joey Belladonna up front. This was amazing as Joey hasn't had much contact with the band since the early 90's. Awesome! Joey himself was looking pretty old, and some of the younger members of the audience made some comments I won't repeat here. Fortunately, the vast majority of the crowd were seasoned rockers aged between 30 and 50 and are starting to feel the tug of time themselves. The band were looking cool and collected and ran through some of their favourites and even took a couple of requests from the crowd. When they played "Indians" I knew that the long drive had been worth it and felt sure that nothing could top the performance. I was wrong.

    Another half hour set-change followed the 1 hour Anthrax show. The event was hosted by Bemowo Airport, a small airfield on the outskirts of Warsaw and during the break a helicopter pilot entertained the crowd with some truly thrilling aerobatics. I had no idea helicopters could fly upside-down. I also have no clue if the air-show was a planned part of the event.

    After the showy pilot had flown off and the equipment had been changed it was time for Megadeth to take the stage. I've seen Megadeth play live before and last night's show was in many respects superior to my previous experience but was let down, in my opinion, by poor sound mixing. It was difficult to know what was being played most of the time but notable exceptions include Peace Sells, which I think was their closing number, and a truly breath-taking rendition of "Symphony of Destruction". Given that the vast majority of the audience present didn't speak English, the number of people that knew all the words was amazing. If you've ever played this song loud on your home stereo system you know it's something you can really "let go" with and pour your heart into. Everybody did. Their was so much energy in the audience at that point you could probably have wired us up to the local power grid. Warsaw would have been lit by the power of song alone. If I could describe the feeling better, I would, but..... after an hour on stage, Dave Mustaine was the last member of Megadeth to leave.

    After yet another half hour break it was the turn of Slayer to take the stage. This they did in style. Kerry King was wearing so much metal that I'm surprised that the magnets in his array of amps didn't suck him in. Clearly the extravagant arm band he was wearing at the start of the set was too heavy (dozens of long spikes/nails looking somewhat hedgehog-like) and had to go. Tom Araya's beard has gone grey but the man was looking strong and smiled his way through the whole of the band's one hour set. I'm not a big Slayer fan myself, but I couldn't help being drawn into the mood as serious fans were going crazy all around me. Small mosh pits opened up all around and a couple of flung people landed on me, but nobody seems to have been hurt. For me, the height of this set was "Mandatory Suicide" though the Slayer fans seemed to prefer "Angel of Death".

    Another break followed and the crazy chopper pilot was back again. This time I thought he would kill himself, and us, as he got amazingly close. The break was longer this time, 45 minutes, but the wait was definitely worth it. Clearly Metallica had some special needs. This turned out to be the case. I've seen Metallica play live twice before so I was expecting a big show. I wasn't disappointed. As usual there were flames, fireworks, amazing lighting and this time, an enormous video screen that filled the back of the stage.

    The band came on stage looking fabulous. This was the first act of the day that was looking "grown-up" without looking old. The only possible exception being Kirk Hammett who looked a little tired, I thought. Maybe jet-lag? The set ran for over 2 whole hours and the Metallica show was clearly what most of the audience had come to see. If there had been any free space to move around in during the previous sets, it quickly disappeared. James Hetfield told the crowd that Metallica were proud to be one of the "big four" metal acts and very proud to be taking part in this historic night which he described as a "dream come true for every metal-head in the whole world". He said he was proud that he could take part in that moment and that we, the crowd, could also be there, making history together. James talked a fair bit during the set and, at one point, told us that there was "a lot of you guys" and "I can't see the back of the crowd" so he asked for the "house lights" to be turned on so that they could get a look at us. Well, when the lights came on and the cameras were turned on the crowd, I could see what he meant. There must have been tens of thousands present, maybe hundreds of thousands. I don't know, but I don't think I ever saw so many people in one place. At that point I realised that relative to the majority of the masses behind me, I had a pretty good view as I could actually see the bands on stage, as well as on the video relays.
    And now, the music, well.... If I could make an all-time greatest hits of Metallica I think it would look something like last night's set. It included everything from the very oldest to the very newest material. There was "Hit the Lights" and "Creeping Death", there was "Fade to Black" and "One", there was "Master of Puppets" and "Blackened", the list goes on and on. As they usually do, the band played a tribute to one of their influences. This time they played "Stone Cold Crazy" by Queen. To close the set they played "Seek and Destroy". When it was clear that they'd played all they were going to, they stayed on stage to talk to the crowd and to throw drum sticks, plectrums, sweat bands etc. into the audience. A recorded announcement telling the crowds about the best ways to get quickly and efficiently away from the area started playing and James very quickly told them to "Shut that f****** thing off, we're not done yet!" Sadly, all good things come to an end the crowd started shuffling off, according to the recorded instructions. The crazy helicopter pilot was back again, though this time nobody was interested really as the masses had seen what they really wanted to see and besides, it was dark now.

    There was an amazing sense of camaraderie in the crowd that left the airfield. There were thousands upon thousands of us and the police had closed whole streets, four lanes wide, through large parts of Warsaw, so we'd all have some space to walk in. The recorded announcements had said that local bus services would continue running until all the concert-goers had been transported.... it seems they hadn't counted on just how many people wanted to take the bus. Tyres blew out on at least three buses that I saw and the back-ends of all the buses were almost scraping the ground under the load. Thankfully, I only had a shortish walk (2 or 3 kilometres) back to where we'd left our car and I didn't have to be packed in to one of these death traps.

    The journey home was uneventful except for an overturned truck at the motorway entrance, which made our journey longer as we had to take slow roads to the next junction. The radio stations were playing music by the big four which kept the mood going for most of the night. I was pretty tired when I got home, and even more so after an hour of sleep on the sofa before I had to get up to take care of our daughter. I was still pretty sleepy when I started to write this but, having re-lived it all in my head as I write, I now feel wide awake.

    If you have the chance to catch one of the other planned shows... go. You will not regret it.
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