KARACHI: The S&M2 (San Francisco Symphony featuring Metallica) anniversary concert was held in San Francisco on September 6, 2019. It sold out within minutes, leading to Metallica performing another concert on September 8. However, many fans from around the world were still unable to get the tickets, to which the band announced that they will treat everyone through a big-screen experience.
Metallica’s official website stated, “On October 9th, we are psyched to be bringing you S&M², for one-night-only, in 3,000 movie theaters around the world!” To our surprise, Pakistan was one of the lucky countries on the list!
Wednesday night saw the darkest of Karachi souls flock to Nueplex DHA and bang their heads in what was nothing short of a conference of metalheads. Conference perhaps is too sober a term to describe the weird but baffling sight of spinning heads and shaking bodies, swinging aimlessly inside a cinema hall and not some shady basement in DHA.
It was cool, so cool, that for a moment it made us forget that this Friday Atif Aslam will be baptising the nation in white attire and black backdrop.
The concert was also screened in Cinepax Karachi, ME Centaurus, Islamabad and Universal Cinemas, Lahore among others.
Music, obsession and liberty took the lead in a rare case of a metal concert being aired in a Pakistani cinema – yes K-pop triumphed metal in gracing our big screens first. That was a reality check which we could have ignored but didn’t. You’re welcome.
As quiet and calculated as it seemed in the beginning, the S&M 2 escalated quickly into a mosh-pit. No popcorns were sold. There was definitely a sense of honesty and loyalty in witnessing the legendary concert, empty-handed.
Everyone kept on sitting till a hardcore metalhead stood up and yelled, “It’s a Metallica concert, why are you all sitting?” That hit where it hurts the most. At least half the audience members followed the call of duty before easing back into their seats because the realization of ‘I-am-too-cool-for-all-this-celebration’ had to strike the highly cosmopolitan Karachi audience. Hope it happened differently in Lahore and Islamabad. Hope they didn’t listen to metal while sitting on plastic chairs. The ones in their 40s didn’t even bother standing.
There were quite a few female metalheads as well who didn’t give two cents about the sinf-e-naazuk stereotype. Not only were they bad, but some of the most consistent and engrossed head-bangers of the night were also women. Needless to say, they were equally enamoured by Metallica’s lead singer, James Hetfield.
"I love James Hatfield; I don't understand how people can live with listening to the same old melancholic music that only makes one sleepy all the time. Our generation lacks energy, and the capacity to understand good music anymore!" said Anamtah, a BBA student.
Another woman who literally unfolded herself in a very inside-out cathartic fashion was a pharmacist who has been a metalhead since she was 13.
"I know my profession does not coincide with my metal fervour, but I'd like to put aside any generalisation whatsoever,” she told the Express Tribune post-show, with her eye-liner smeared around her lids.
“I've been listening to metal since I was 13 and this is the first time I heard Metallica 'live' in Karachi. Although the audience mostly had men, I was happy to see a couple of girls come out. We headbanged to Metallica's One and Master of puppets like crazy."
Even for men, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity with no one willing to settle down. The Co-Founder and Guitarist of band AUJ, was also there to witness the legendary moment.
"This is the first time Metallica is being screened in Pakistan and I'd just like to say that majority of the musicians in our industry, have grown up on Metallica. Whatever I am today is also because of the band, which is why I'm here," said guitarist, Nasir Zaka.
Metallica on screen
The beginning of S&M2 film showcased a brief documentary on how the concert was put together, elaborating the origins of the first set of Metallica shows. It also reminisced Michael Kamen – the brains behind the collaboration of thrash metal with a symphonic finish.
Metallica played with more than 75 musicians as the orchestra launched into a live version of The Ecstasy of Gold. The band opened the set with The Call of Ktulu, just like they did in 1999. There were slight but subtle tweaks from the original score, but the impact was huge.
This time Metallica made San Francisco Symphony a bigger part of the show, as compared to the previous S&M. The entire orchestra interacted with the band, leaving the audience baffled when they opened One with the band. The symphony's bassist, Scott Pingel also stole the show with his bass tribute to Cliff Burton. Another highlight was seeing James Hetfield singing The Unforgiven III solely with the orchestra alongside him.
However, it was the last half hour when Metallica stopped experimenting and took over the show entirely, with their rugged side finally tearing up the silence as the audience went haywire. Everyone stood up to the glory of the sound and screamed their lungs out with the band on the screen.
People left their seats and went in the front of the hall to run around, creating a scene from an actual metal concert. Regardless of the magnanimity of all the musicians together, the last few minutes established that whether there’s an orchestra or no orchestra, nothing beats the raw power of Wherever I may roam, One, Master of the Puppets, Nothing else matters and Enter Sandman.
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