I’m led through the white corridors of the backstage area, a longhaired, clipboard-wielding, headset-wearing guy showing me the way to the stage. The lights are blinding, a large crowd is gathered and I’m ready to rock the place….
Heavy metal is a genre of music that I have largely long since left behind. I guess you could say that I’ve “been there, done that” and moved on to pastures new, exploring a wider array of music than ever. Heavy metal has a habit of consuming you, leaving no room for appreciation or regard for other styles, its grip dictating not just what you listen to, but how you live your life.
There was one particular band that originally grabbed me by the face, dragged me into a darkened room and beat that living hell out of me. With a mixture of lightning bolt riffs, double bass drilling and unrelenting, powerful vocal work, Metallica changed my life. I had only just started playing the guitar when I was introduced to their music, about twelve years ago now (WTF? Oh how time flies). I put away my Blur albums for a long while.
Fast-forward to Saturday March 28th 2009; I’ve rekindled my love with Blur and other “soft” musical acts, becoming disillusioned and bored of heavy metal for no particular reason and deciding to shift my focus to acoustic folk guitar playing. But I still can’t get enough of Metallica, which is why I paid fifty quid for a ticket to see them headline the O2 Arena here in London last night.
The show, as if I need to tell you, was fantastic. It’s amazing to think that ten years ago they were slowing down, both live and in the studio. Now the group seem revitalised, a healthier lifestyle leading to them looking younger than they did in 1999, playing the old classics as fast and energetic as they did in 1988.
The show finishes with a romping rendition of Seek And Destroy. The small group of us who came decide to go to one of the bars in the complex to allow the crowd to die down before we attempt to travel across the capital to get home. The booze has been flowing all night and I’m feeling rather merry. There is a large stage to one side, where a band are setting up. I look a little closer; it’s not a band.
They have Guitar Hero: Metallica.
Let me rephrase that: I’m drunk and they have Guitar Hero: Metallica for people to get up in groups and play in front of a couple of hundred people.
This is dangerous.
The rest, ladies and gentlemen, is history. I ended up on stage twice, singing For Whom The Bell Tolls and One, respectively. That’s right, I played (technically) the same venue, the same night as Metallica. What’s more, I did OK. I was in key, for most of the time. I think.
For those two songs I felt on top of the world. Heavy metal music is a powerful drug. I found myself putting everything into those songs, the crowd (in my head anyway) responding to the performance that myself and the makeshift group who accompanied me were giving up there.
My love for Guitar Hero has been well and truly kicked back into life, the dust flying from a series that has become a little too overbearing in recent times. While I know the highs I felt last night may never be recreated from the comfort of my bedroom, I realise now that some of the purest joy in gaming has been provided by the like of Rockband and Guitar Hero, cutting loose and losing yourself in the moment much like you may in an effective FPS game.
I’m no James Hetfield, but if you’d have suggested that at the time of One coming to a close, I’d have responded in the only way I’d have known how: “Ssshhhhhhhhhhhha!”