... So Why Don't You Kill Me?

Metal roolz at Lolla VI

Soundgarden is still good, but hadn't acted so stagy when I saw them for $5 at the I-Beam in '89. (Though they did pretend to hump each other.) Cornell held his guitar aloft to the audience and commanded them to stand. Most obeyed. To the left of the stage, gurneys took neck-braced victims away for medical treatment. I thought, "Is this really necessary?" The majority of the audience would have responded, "Shut up, you old fart," had they heard me. And they'd be right -- at 28, I was an old fart at this bloated foofaraw, where only 19-year-olds could have the endurance (and perhaps naivete) to last an entire day.

During the wait for Metallica, I noticed that other people's anticipation can indeed be palpable. I felt the collective nattering, foot-shuffling, and whooping in my stomach and the small of my back. Many people left the stadium, but more took their places. As the roadies worked, any change in the stage environment provoked the crowd into cheering: guitar and drum checks, stage light adjustments, and even two seconds of PA static. WOOOOOO! How people do enjoy being led.

When the four-man deity arrived, 40,000 hands rose without any questions. Lisa, who had never gone to a stadium show before, pointed out that green and red spotlights appropriately made everything onstage look like a comic-book panel. Old songs ("Creeping Death," "Whiplash"), recent songs ("Sad But True"), and mediocre new songs ("Ain't My Bitch") were all performed with the same strong-armed, hunched-over attention that does indeed make Metallica fun to watch. All the same, I was beat -- lighters flaring up for the suicide ballad ("Fade to Black") swam in my vision, and Metallica wasn't about to stop their multimillion-dollar production and apologize to me personally for releasing a lame album. As we departed, pyrotechnics announcing the imminent performance of "One," the quadruple-amputee paean, set off car alarms all over San Jose. I was full. As depraved as the Romans may have been -- with their death sports, their orgies, their inbred emperors -- at least they had vomitoriums. In America, where depravity is apparently a matter of scale, we have to puke in the parking lot.

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