Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Metallica Rules

I haven't written in awhile, and I have a lot to talk about the end of the Barber run in Milwaukee. As soon as I got home, however, I landed eyeballs deep into Casanova's Homecoming, an opera by Dominick Argento that the MN Opera is mounting in November. I am covering the lead role, and the music is treacherous. I sort of came on board late in the game, and being on the road until the 4th didn't leave a lot of prep time for it. The music is crazy hard, but it is sort of growing on me. The character is sort of like an older Figaro- at least that's what I'm telling myself to help throw it together. I also did a big benefit concert in my home town last weekend, so that had to be put together as well. Anyhoo, I haven't had a spare second to talk about the Skylight run. And now that I have a spare second, I'm not going to talk about Figaro. I'm going to talk about Metallica.

I was lucky enough to see them play at the Target Center in Minneapolis last night. Not only that, but my cousin Dave scored floor tickets. They play in the round, so we were actually pretty close to the band, and they ran around the whole stage, so we got a lot of 'face time' with James, Kirk, Rudy, and Lars (they rotated the drum kit several times over the course of the night as well). They played a lot of their older catalog as well as some new tunes off their new album Death Magnetic. My ears are still ringing.

These guys rock. Their playing is so tight, so in the pocket, and seemingly effortless. The force and intensity of Lars' drumming was staggering, as was his impeccable timing. Kirk Hammett's lead guitar chops are crazy, and the solos that he and James played in harmony were sweet and melodic. Dave and I totally rocked out the air guitar for their whole set. Afterwards, we had a beer and nerded out talking about the concert. Dave said that these concerts are like staged events- almost like doing an opera or a play- everything is planned out, where the guys stand, which microphone they use, the order of the songs, the pyro, everything. I was thinking the same thing as I watched them rip up the Target Center (which looked like it was completely sold out BTW). And it occurred to me that watching them play is like an opera. Or watching an Ironman Triathalon. Or both. James is like the entire cast, Kirk would be like the string section, Rudy I guess would be the brass, Lars is the conductor.

I've ranted and raved about how I think opera and metal music are related, and this was just another example of that. First of all, the harmonies and structures Metallica use are very classically based (in my opinion). Second of all, it's loud. LOUD. Lastly, it's long. They played for 2 1/2 hours. And it also occurred to me- in the midst of preparing a fiendishly difficult score by a modern composer- that these 4 dudes had 50,000 people singing, rocking out, and shaking their fists to music that had mixed meters, complex harmonies, and songs that probably average about 7-8 minutes long.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is an audience for good music, whether it is at Target Center or Lincoln Center. I'm not saying that I think Metallica is the 21st century Shostakovich (although there are parts of Master of Puppets that sort of remind me of him), but for the people in the Target Center last night these anthems were the symphonies of yesterday. Good music is good music. I would love to hear a new symphony that featured electric guitar, or to hear an orchestral piece by a modern composer whose influences include Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen as well as Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. Or hear (or perform) a recital of Bon Iver, Joni Mitchell, and Radiohead. These are our Mozarts- why do we not embrace them as such, but cast them off as trite pop stars like Britney Spears?

Wow, I'm on a soapbox now. Pay no attention to my ranting- I still have a sore neck from headbanging, ringing ears, and a sophomoric ideal of how I want my loves of rock music and classical music to merge.

I'll be back on topic next time. Until then, I'll be sleeping with my Argento score under my pillow, hoping that somehow the notes will migrate off the page and into my head.

off to never never land.