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Now, I'm not big on live records. Most of the time they're cash-ins, and although some sound better than the studio, often they lack the inspiration and novelty of the original cut. However, this grabs a big score by being 1) Metallica, 2) Well-recorded, and 3) Fucking huge. It's insane for the individual CD set to be pushing 60$ Canadian and the DVDs around 70$ but this doesn't detract from their quality. It only limits their distribution, and thus this album is rarely considered as one of the greatest live albums ever.
Well it is. By sheer breadth it's nearly unparalleled (did someone say Pearl Jam? Quiet you), and these are incredible performances from an incredible band at the height of their powers. It's also the most LIVE live album I've ever heard. The crowd is high in the mix, the stage banter is rambling and untouched, and the performances are raw and electric.
Actually, what is almost my fav part in this box is the stage banter. James is a comedic genius! Rarely have I ever laughed out loud at a metal record, but this one is great. I actually quote this thing daily, which is either sad or awesome depending on your perspective. Plus, one of the funniest drum solo's in history right here.
And then there is the spontaneous feel. No other band just start dropping pieces of covers 'n' classics like Metallica, or at least with that sense of style. "Frayed Ends of Sanity", "Smoke on the Water", "Little Wing, "Ride the Lightning", "Mistreated", "Hall of the Mountain King", "Blitzkrieg", and others make cameo appearances (mostly during solo spots) and it becomes a fun game to try to recognize the snippets. Of course you could cheat and check the liners...wanker.
Anyway, video/DVD one is the Seattle show from the ...And Justice for All tour. It's the shortest set alas, but this is old school Metallica to the nine's. The performances are sublime, and say what you will about post-Master Tallica records, these guys had their live shit down like never before. Also, this was the first tour with sizeable venues, and the scope of the audience lends power and glory (*wink*) to the show. Anyway, the set is nearly impeccable (even a piece of “Orion”) and we get some of their greatest songs. "Blackened", "Sanitarium", "Harvester of Sorrow", "Master of Puppets" (with interlude!), "Whiplash", "Breadfan", "Four Horsemen", "Am I Evil?" (uncut version!), and best of all, "...And Justice For All"...fuck it, everything here rocks are unsafe levels. Oh, and the bass solo is actually entertaining if overlong.
San Diego is a marathon show from the Black Tour. The new cuts (five of em) fit in perfectly with the old school cuts. "Enter Sandman" is heavy and groovy, with some Lars's most inspired drumming on the intro and outro. "Through the Never" and "Of Wolf and Man" are energetic, and "Sad but True" is live perfection. "The Unforgiven" is a tune the band never plays anymore, but it's fucking incredible live, and holds it's own with no less than "One", "Fade to Black", and "Sanitarium" in the same set. The Justice medley is incredible and I'm so enthused that we get to hear "Eye of the Beholder" and the title track, two cuts sadly neglected in recent years. Alas, the guitar solo is overlong and dull, and the bass solo is only notable for a taste of the beautiful "My Friend of Misery".
Mexico is the longest show of all. Basically whatever goes for the others goes for this one. I question the need for seven black tracks, but we still have an equal number of old schoolers plus more Kill 'Em All. "Motorbreath"! Of special note is the "Battery"-medley, featuring pieces of "No Remorse", "Ride the Lightning", and "So What?" before galloping into the eternal set piece "Battery".
In other words, buy this now, forget the house payments!
Stand-Outs: God… Seattle “Am I Evil?”, Seattle “…And Justice for All”, San Diego “The Four Horsemen”