It’ll be a few days of unconventional reviews on my site this week, with today’s topic being a concert film, and tomorrow I have a showing of Billy Connolly’s final stand-up show at the cinema.
Obviously, these will not be under the same scrutiny as a typical film, there’s no story to follow, no acting (unless you count Lars Ulrich pretending to be a half-decent drummer) and no cinematography, in the traditional sense anyway.
What there is to analyse though, is how the concert experience transfers to film; and how skilfully it is filmed and presented.
1. The Ecstasy of Gold (Performed by the orchestra)
2. The Call of Ktulu
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
4. The Day That Never Comes
5. The Memory Remains
7. Moth Into Flame
8. The Outlaw Torn
9. No Leaf Clover
10. Halo on Fire
11. Scythian Suite, Op. 20, Second Movement (performed by the orchestra)
12. The Iron Foundry (performed by Metallica and the orchestra)
13. The Unforgiven III
14. All Within My Hands
15. (Anaesthesia) Pulling Teeth (bass solo by Scott Pingel)
16. Wherever I May Roam
18. Master of Puppets
19. Nothing Else Matters
20. Enter Sandman
For those who don’t know; S&M 2 is a sequel to a performance Metallica gave 20 years ago with the San Francisco Symphony, one of the world’s leading orchestras, with the benefit of twenty years of further experience and technological advances, I can say with confidence that this sequel surpasses its original.
The heavy sound of Metallica, combined with the classical tomes of the Symphony creates an intriguing, and mind-blowing sonic wall of sound, the cinema shook with the power these two entities combined, its sound mixed at the sweet spot of recreating a concert experience without over-burdening the audience.
Its direction as a concert film is typical of the genre, if a little hyperactive. The camera never feels like it settles on one focal point, while this may match the frenetic energy of most of Metallica’s output, it does lose a certain amount of focus during the longer songs.
Speaking of long songs, Metallica are sometimes accused of being over-indulgent in their arrangements, something that can be levied at them here, especially with the added factor of the orchestra, it was a balancing act to make the most out of the situation but not drag out their already lengthy songs; I think they toe the line effectively, sometimes falling into being over-indulgent, falling specifically on their drummer, Lars, who never seems to know when a song is over.
For Metallica fans, hearing the epic sound of their favourite songs turbo-charged with a world-class orchestra will be enough, when the camera-work is on point, it is stunning. I’m always amazed watching concerts on the big screen, seeing everything in such high resolution and under such focus, there are a number of great uses of the crowd too, one moment that springs to mind is a camera shot that swoops through a fans ‘devil horns’ sign in the crowd, a great piece of work from the Director of Photography.
Despite my few grumbles, I had a great time seeing a top class band playing some of their best works in a unique setting like this one, both band and orchestra were on top of their game, and a few faults weren’t going to derail this excellent experience of top class heavy metal.
Post-script: Since the recording of this show, Metallica frontman James Hetfield has entered rehab for treatment for his long-term addiction issues. If you or anyone you know are affected by addiction, there is help out there, I’m listing some phone numbers below for anyone who needs them. Don’t suffer in silence.
Alcoholics Anonymous: 080020917720650
These are all U.K. based phone numbers, for local helplines, consult Google, or reach out to a friend.