Concert Reviews

Last Night: Metallica's "Secret" Show at Stubb's BBQ

SXSW's Guitar Hero: Metallica Party
Stubb's BBQ in Austin, TX
Friday, March 20, 2009

Better than: anything else you could've seen at SXSW last night--and maybe all week. People might try to disagree on that. But don't buy into it. This was the show by which SXSW 2009 will be remembered.

Pete Freedman
James Hetfield strikes his best Guitar Hero pose at Stubb's.

It was the worst-kept secret in Austin. And, really, it wasn't a secret at all. Even the posters promoting this show read "featuring members of Metallica." Right. Like the people behind Guitar Hero and its upcoming spinoff, Guitar Hero: Metallica, would dare send Robert Trujillo to Austin without James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett in tow, ready to perform.

Are you kidding? There'd be riots.

Instead, as everyone knew what to expect, on this night, there were just lines of revelers paitently awaiting the chance to see the metal icons in as small a venue as the band is likely to have played at any point in the past 20 years.

So when the lights went down shortly before 10 o'clock, the crowd inside the venue roared in anticipation. And when Metallica emerged and launched into its opening song, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," a most pit immediately formed at the front and center of the venue, bodies flailing left and right, security gyuards trying to make sense of it all before quickly just giving up.

"Surprise!" Hetfield greeted the crowd upon the song's completiong. "Everybody's surprised, right? This was the best-kept secret in rock 'n' roll!"

The crowd cheered and laughed in response.

"We thought we'd join your party," Hetfield continued, before speaking into the microphone with a failed European accent. "We're from Norway--that's the worst Norwegian accent ever. We're from Norway and we want get signed."

Clearly, he was in high spirits. And for the next hour and 25 minutes, in which his band performed a career-spanning setlist (including older fare like "Master of Puppets" and "Sad But True", mid-career efforts like "Breadfan", and newer tracks like "Die Harder" and "Cyanide") and returned for two encores, the crowd was too.

At the end of the performance, Hetfield again thanked the crowd for its energy, for supporting live music, and for letting Metallica "join [its] party." The crowd's applause let him and the rest of the band know that the thanks went both ways.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Everyone at least respects what Metallica has been able to achieve over the course of its career. I'm that way; I like the band. I like a good chunk of its songs, a few albums. But I wouldn't call myself a fan, per se. Even so, this was one fo the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. What a show... non-stop headbanging goodness for 85 minutes, the band playing seemingly within spit's reach. Incredible stuff.

Random Note: Probably the nicest, happiest crowd I've ever been a part of. The non-badge and non-wristband audience members who'd gotten into the performance were as grateful and as gracious as any concert attendees I've ever met.

By The Way: After Hetfield's thanks to the crowd, the rest of the band offered up their verbal thanks. Ulrich, who went last in his goodbyes had a nice little gem to share: "I know most of you at this show aren't from around here. But for those Texans who are, we're going to be in San Antonio and Dallas in September." Far as I'm aware, that's the first announcement of those shows.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman