You know it’s got to be 2020. An international pandemic, double hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, murder hornets, and just to make things seem completely ridiculous, Metallica plays a live concert at the drive-in theater. Not just one drive-in, mind you – in true, metal mega-band style, Metallica’s “shot-to-look-live” show on August 29th appeared at over 300 drive-in theaters across the U.S. and Canada. If you were at one of them, you saw it for yourself – enthusiastic fans, looking for any reason to party after months of being stuck at home, filled the parking lots with their pickup trucks, lawn chairs, Metallica paraphernalia and in some cases, large sound systems (necessary to listen to the show), in tow.
Tickets went on sale through Ticketmaster on August 14th, and venues in some cities sold out in a matter of hours. The concert series is the brainchild of media company Encore Live out of Fort Worth, TX. The Metallica show was only the second in a series that debuted with a recorded-live concert by Garth Brooks back in June of this year. With shows curated specifically for each event, the fan experience is much like going to an actual concert but, without the price tag of a large concert venue. Ticket cost includes admission by the carload for up to six people and free music downloads were an added perk of this deal.
I attended the show at the Stars and Stripes Drive-In in New Braunfels, Texas just outside Austin. Hands-free check-in by the courteous staff was easy and organized. Cars were parked in every other space in one of the three lots in order to accommodate social distancing and masks were the rule. Many of the folks I saw over the course of the evening were mask-free but, people maintained a respectful distance from one another at this outdoor venue without issue. Hundreds of cars, three screens, a great little café, indoor bathrooms and a space you can call your own while watching the biggest metal band in the business – I’d call that a win by any measure. I mean, it’s 2020. We do what we must.
As darkness fell, the screen came to life as Three Days Grace opened with a (very short) eight-song set list which began with “I Am Machine”, followed shortly by “Animal I Have Become”, included a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and closed with “Riot”. It was just enough to get the crowd going. Since there was no need for band setup or tear down, a short interlude occurred just before the main act hit the screen.
Metallica’s concert was actually shot on an outdoor stage in a vineyard in California in early August; the large, well-lit structure mimicking the scale and magnificence of a live outdoor show. The set list was solid, if not great, but the various solos peppered throughout the performance – which did include many of their classics – certainly made up for it. A three-minute intro film, featuring Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” as the music bed (from the movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) started the show and told the behind-the-scenes story of how this whole thing came into being and how the crew worked, tirelessly in masks, to make it all happen. It was a nod to the hardworking stage crews all over, who do whatever is necessary to ensure the show goes on, regardless of the challenges which lay before them.
Opening the set list with “Hardwired”. James Hetfield looked and sounded fantastic. In between numbers which included “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Sad But True”, “Fuel” and “One”, the band kidded with the audience about how they were so glad to be performing and asking trivia questions with a drive-in theme (wink wink). Many in the audience played along; one could hear the chuckling as some yelled answers at the screen. Was the whole thing a smidge hokey? Sure, but that was part of the quirky fun. The rest of the 90-minute set included “The Unforgiven”, “Fade to Black”, ending with an encore of “Nothing Else Matters” and finale “Enter Sandman”.
All in all, this was one of the most surreal, corny and cool ways I’ve ever watched a band perform. In my opinion, whatever keeps the music makers of the world working can only be a good thing. If it means I spend my money to sit in the bed of a pickup truck with my lawn chair and my giant boom box to see a live concert, so be it. After all, in a time where giant spiders, disappearing galaxies and toilet paper hoarding are commonplace, going to the local drive-in to witness one of the greatest bands in the history of music, seems well…downright normal.
Miss the show? You can still get some cool merch here: https://www.metallica.com/store/drive-in-tour-shirts/.
Three Days Grace Set List:
I Am Machine
Animal I Have Become
I Hate Everything About You
Somebody That I Used to Know
Metallica Set List:
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Seek & Destroy
Now That We’re Dead
Sad But True
Moth Into Flame
Wherever I May Roam
Fade To Black
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
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