October 30th, 2011. Sunday. The big day.
We reached Palace Grounds around 2pm and the line even before the gates opened were extending outside the venue for nearly a kilometre!
Not that there wasn’t enough ‘entertainment’ around us. Needless to say, some in the crowd were high even before the concert. One guy climbed up a tree to get an idea of what was taking so long, which only drew cheers from the crowd. Then the crowd shouted: “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!”. The look on tree guy’s face was as though he faintly understood what the crowd below were chanting. When the crowd realized he wasn’t going to jump, they then shouted: “PUSSY! PUSSY! PUSSY! PUSSY!” It was freakin’ hilarious!
But all order broke loose when we heard a police siren and looked back to see a police vehicle escorting a convoy of high-end SUVs. The crowd made way assuming it was the Metallica themselves making their way to the venue. The cheers gave way to resentment when the license plate of the Range Rover said ‘Member of Parliament’. After that, the mood changed to anger and abuses hurled at the convoy. (The Range Rover was driven by Rajeev Chandrasekhar)
Eventually, the calm that was maintained ended as the convoy had to pass through and the crowd gave up on being patient and just ran past the gates and towards the concert grounds. You can’t blame the organizers when MPs themselves create havoc and only care for their own interest. Not to mention abuse a police escort to come to a concert!
Fortunately, nobody was hurt. I eventually regrouped with my friends and everybody formed another big line leading up to the concert ground.
Because it rained, the grounds were muddy and even though DNA (the organizers) covered the grounds with massive green mats (of some sort), the mud was still seeping through, given how many feet were pressing down on it. Past the security check and frisking, we finally entered the grounds by 5:30pm.
The audience was divided in an ‘H’ formation and the section close to the stage was already packed with people. I had no desire to be squished, so we went to the second section and secured a spot in front of the middle screen.
My phone began acting up while I recorded “Many of Horror,” and I ended up losing the video. So here’s just a little bit of “Mountains”:
Biffy Clyro left the stage by around 7pm.
But not before the crew could sweep water off the stage, set everything up and do the usual checks. During that time, a roadie came on stage, took the mic and requested the people in the front section to go back a bit. He said they had no intentions of repeating what happened in Gurgaon (the concert in New Delhi was called off the day before because apparently the crowds pressed against the barricades too hard, causing it to break).
It took some time, which wasn’t unexpected given how many people wanted to be as close to the stage as possible — and there probably wasn’t any space at the end of the section for people to go back any further. When the roadie kept repeating “You guys aren’t helping,” those around me in my section got agitated and began jeering, with some even chanting “Delhi crowd – go back!” (No offense Northern brethren, it was only for fun)
15 minutes or so later, we were ready. The stage was set. As it neared 8pm, the lights dimmed and “Ecstasy of Gold” played on the speakers! The time had come:
After opening with “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” James Hetfield got everybody fist-pumping again with “Fuel“. Metallica’s 80’s hits “Ride the Lightning” and “Fade to Black” followed.
James then asked the audience if anybody bought Metallica’s last studio album ‘Death Magnetic,’ to which a good chunk of the audience responded to with a “yeah!/yes!/yup!/
illegally downloaded!/wooh!” (Hey, at least he didn’t bring up ‘St. Anger‘).
“Cyanide” from DM was succeeded by the hugely popular “Memory Remains,” which saw the crowd sing along for quite some time even after the song ended. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” followed, after which James spoke again before going into one of Metallica’s most popular songs:
“All Nightmare Long” was another song from Death Magnetic Metallica played. Then, every fan knew what came next when the lights dimmed and machine gun fire came out the speakers:
After two hugely popular numbers, the band returned to …And Justice for All with “Blackened“.
Then came the big two:
The band all waved to the fans and walked off the stage. Everybody knew the show wasn’t over, but still chanted “We want more!”
The band members – James, Kirk, Lars and Rob – all came forward, waved to everybody, spoke on the mic… and then gave away a shit load of guitar picks and drum sticks!
We left the (now even muddier) grounds very satisfied after a 2 hour show.
The show did have its share of minor technical issues (DNA, I mean actual glitches). The speaker in front of us did lose sound for a song and half, and the middle screen flickered occasionally. But all-in-all, I don’t think any of us had any regrets spending Rs. 2750 ($56) to see Metallica. James Hetfield sounded amazing, Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos were jaw-dropping, Rob Trujillo is a beast on bass, and Lars Ulrich really does stand and pound the drums! Seeing all that made it well worth the wait.
Technically, the Bangalore gig wasn’t supposed to be Metallica’s first performance in India. That privilege went to Delhi as part of the inaugural F1 Rocks for the 2011 Indian Grand Prix. Some in attendance went online and stated that it was a ‘racist’ roadie who riled up the audience when the people in front wouldn’t move back from the barricades as it was giving in. Others blame the organizers for the fiasco. Watching this video, in my opinion, what ultimately nailed the coffin on the Gurgaon show were the idiots who went on stage and started trashing it!
I was really shocked on Friday night when I heard, what was to be the ‘Metallica’s first concert in India,’ was cancelled! It was embarrassing. Sure, I can talk about how much “better” the Bangalore crowd is, but at the day, the international news headlines stated “in India” — and it got a lot of international press!
Which is why I was glad the Bangalore concert was a successful one without any major issues. I don’t think anybody attending wanted to risk any chance of cancellation of the only other show in India!
But that sense of satisfaction didn’t last very long. A few days later, news broke of a few who had their belongings stolen from the venue! A Malaysian couple who came all the way just to see Metallica play apparently found out their bags were robbed of their passport and money. I can’t imagine how badly their night ended after how good a time the rest of us had!
In DNA’s defense, it was very clearly mentioned behind the ticket that bags (I’m talking about the backpack variety) are not allowed inside the venue. 99% of crowd came without bags. But the few who came with bags had to leave them at some unsecured spot which was accessible to low-life loiterers from outside who had no clue even what somebody else’s passport is worth! But at the end of the day, those who lost their valuables blamed the organizers. Naturally.
Putting myself in DNA’s shoes, I can imagine the headache of organizing a concert of such scale in India. First, there’s the logistics of it all, but the worst part is dealing with:
a) the worthless public officials from whom the organizers need to get clearances from, and you just know bribes are involved
b) the concert crowd themselves
During the show in Bangalore, there were a few idiots who climbed up the scaffolding in front of us to get a better view. Did the thought that it’s dangerous to do so ever cross their minds? Yes, they were brought down swiftly by a policeman and a DNA staff, but why do they need to be told so? After paying Rs. 2750, did they feel it entitled them to do whatever they felt like, even if it meant compromising the safety of everybody else around them?
Friends of mine (not in my group) who showed up to the venue a bit late told me after the concert how a cop manning the front section told them he wouldn’t allow them in as there were already too many people inside. So how did they manage to get past that? They paid the cop Rs. 500, and he let them get closer to the stage.
Now who are you going to blame? DNA Networks? The Metallica roadie who supposedly hurled abuses at the crowd because there were just too many people pressing up against the barricades? No point blaming the authorities when the people are no better.
There’s a reason why Metallica would be especially concerned over crowd safety. The Gurgaon incident isn’t the first ‘riot’ to ever break out at a Metallica gig. Shit has happened at Metallica gigs before, but it’s not always the band to blame. They still have to play it safe because the next day, it’s their name that makes the headlines.
In some ways, it comes with the territory. Heavy metal fans can get aggressive very easily. Mix alcohol to that, and you just make it even easier. Which is why I was glad DNA chose not to sell alcohol inside the venue despite the concert being sponsored by a vodka brand. Things could have gotten much worse if they had.
Despite the many event promoters entering the Indian gig scene, we still have a long way to go. There are still many world famous bands with a huge fanbase in India who are yet to play here (Green Day, Link Park, Bon Jovi, U2 etc, just to name a few). Sure, we may not have a venue like Madison Square Garden or an O2 Arena, but understand one thing — if we did, the tickets wouldn’t have cost Rs. 2750 ($56). India still pays far less for a ticket compared to developed markets. In some ways, I’m cool with that. I only need the band, good sound and clear screens.
I come for the music — nothing else matters.