[image] METALLICA MEETS CLASSICAL Berkeley Community Theater on 4/22/99
by Randy Cohen

Metallica rocked, make no mistake. The sold-out crowd of metal fans at the Berkeley Community Theater, saw conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony go heavy metal, performing with the legendary slash and burn rock 'n' roll band. It was brilliant. The sophisticated orchestra, teaming up with the heavy metal band known for its devilish lyrics. ''It sounds like Stravinsky on acid,'' conductor Michael Kamen said. Playing some 20 of its heavy metal hits, including ''Bleeding Me,'' ''Enter Sandman,'' and ''Fight Fire With Fire,'' they also played two new songs written for the collaboration - ``No Leaf Clover'' and ``Human,''. Other rock 'n' rollers have performed with orchestras, including Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, but the Metallica-San Francisco Symphony combo seems the most extreme. Conductor Michael Kamen wrote all the symphonic {short description of image}music to accompany Metallica -- not such an easy feat, considering Metallica never wrote down their music. While the symphony was adorned in full concert dress -- tuxedos and tails -- Metallica band members wore their black T-shirts and the typical dress down heavy metal to fit their part. It certainly was no disappointment for the thousands of cheering Metallica fans packing the house. They were seeing their masters at work and also being filmed for a future video. There was camera's everywhere, even on a giant boom circling overhead, and man was it very hot - about 90 degrees plus inside. During intermission, everybody bolted for the outside balconies to get some cool air. The evening began promisingly with a luxuriant string intro to Metallica's 15-minute instrumental opus, ``Call of Ktulu.'' As each band member made his way onstage, the San Francisco Symphony gradually built into a galloping rhythm. Appearing last, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett slid into his first solo of the night, with the orchestra's music stands glowing fluorescent white, liquid neon patterns and the overhead screen showing close-ups of everyone going through their movements on stage. After a pure metal version of ``Master of Puppets,'' Metallica singer-guitarist James Hetfield hailed the crowd, ``Ever hear the one about the heavy rock band that wanted to play with the symphony?'' He then introduced the next song: ``We usually call this one `Of Wolf and Man,' but tonight we're calling it `Of Wolfgang and Man' ''. The crowd cheered them on. Metallica members wandered through the symphony tiers as they played, getting into the orchestral groove. Bassist Jason Newsted even jammed beside the harpist. Michael Kamen fit the part with his unruly mane and sleek tuxedo, acting as much like a rock star as a classical {short description of image}conductor -- impressive. He looked like he was having a ball. He gave band members the thumbs-up and punched the air with his fist when a section went well. The second half of the show was definitely the best. Commencing with a beautiful version of "Nothing Else Matters", with James playing an acoustic guitar and sitting with the orchestra, the song was incredible. There were a lot of highlights of the show depending on your perspective. One particular highlight of the evening, was when they played "For Whom the Bell Tolls", the perfect combination of the beautiful sound of the Symphony mixed with the energy of Metallica, which almost had the orchestra headbanging, like the audience. The show concluded with "Battery" and the band introducing Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony to the crowd. The biggest surprise came when the San Francisco Symphony gave an ovation on their violin's, by tapping their bows in a classic tribute. Overall it was a fantastic combination of the two music worlds, sharing one thing in common - their love of music.( See set list) {short description of image}

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