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As cunning as a rabbit - 70%

gasmask_colostomy, February 12th, 2019

Metallica may have faltered repeatedly in the studio, yet they should never be written off as a live band, not with the arsenal of classic anthems they have to draw from. Seeing these guys live should be exciting at the very least, because apart from the great material from the first 10 years of their career, one expects more than just four men playing instruments for a couple of hours. You know, some showmanship, some props. Some cunning stunts. Hence the title of this video, though I suppose they were trying to be rude as well. The two hour live set captures Metallica at a time when Jason Newsted was firmly established in the group, everyone had short hair, they were putting the finishing touches to ReLoad, and most people with access to media probably knew who they were. As a result, it's a big arena show that we watch, and you can bet that most things were done how Metallica wanted.

As for me, I've had a fairly ambivalent relationship with the biggest of the Big 4 bands, feeling that their first incarnation recorded good music that displayed the annoying habits of a few members, while I have little interest in most of the output after the first decade. Given that this show from Fort Worth, Texas slightly favours the older material, eight tracks of 20 coming from Load, ReLoad, and Garage Inc. combined, my interest is maintained fairly well. However, I will say this: I wouldn't have wanted to watch a two hour Metallica concert before 1996. Why? The reason for the success of Cunning Stunts is due to the band's ability to shift between high intensity songs and more relaxed, intimate moments that give the audience a chance to rest and connect with the music in a different way. Even though I'm not a fan of 'Hero of the Day' or 'Nothing Else Matters' under most circumstances, when Newsted sits down and finger picks his way gingerly into the latter song after the then-unreleased energy burst of 'Fuel', I sit down with him and begin following the music with greater avidity than before.

To some extent, that ability to change things up and refresh the gig can also be applied to the performance tactics as well. While logistically tricky, the stage in the middle of the arena (built more or less in the shape of the band's ninja star logo) allows the three string-players to move about and adopt different postures, each going into the audience on more than one occasion. Naturally, watching that on video isn't as interesting as slapping James Hetfield's hand from the front row, but it's still better than watching nothing at all. Lars Ulrich gets up from his drum stool more than once in the performance, taking his shirt off after just the second song, though he seems to get less camera time than the others, mostly because his mouth is open all the time while he's playing. Hetfield changing tops three times is amusing too. The stunt in question - in case you were wondering - is that at the end of 'Enter Sandman' during the encore, a fake stage invasion takes place and supposedly all the electricity shorts and goes out, leaving the band to play the final two songs with less lighting and clothing than before. Ulrich is in his boxer shorts by this point.

Regarding my feelings as I watch through Cunning Stunts, I'm a bit torn between the things that I like and the things that Metallica clearly do well. In the first place, the quartet had certainly become very accomplished arena performers, Hetfield geeing up the audience with mindless call and response banter, plus several songs going into extended endings of cymbal and whammy bar abuse, particularly the end of the smoking rendition of 'Creeping Death'. On the other hand, Kirk Hammett's solos don't actually get much added to, which is a shame since I've always felt that his style limits Metallica from being explorative and taking risks. Basically, all these tricks are very effective, but I don't like them that much. Naturally, the best decision the band makes is in their choice of how to play the old material, allowing three Ride the Lightning songs to be played in full before cranking things up for a 14 minute medley of Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning stuff. Right near the end, we get the abridged version of 'Master of Puppets' and a closing 'Motorbreath', both of which make the right choice regarding impact over pure nostalgia. Kicking off the show with their cover of 'So What', on the other hand, is fairly baffling.

As a concert video, I feel that Cunning Stunts falls somewhere between excellent and boring, largely depending on how you feel about big shows in general. For those who love the showmanship and rise and fall of an attention-grabbing production, I can't think of much else you'd want this side of a Rammstein gig (yes, we get fire with Metallica, but not that much fire), while the song choices are largely suitable for the style of show. Those who disdain the well-worn performance techniques aren't going to find much visually to occupy their time unless Ulrich running around in little shorts is your kind of thing. I'm also in two minds about whether I got my full dose of Metallica at their maximum, since the highlight is probably the second song in the setlist, 'Creeping Death'. Cherrypicking the most exciting parts of one of the most recognizable songs in metal also makes 'Master of Puppets' stand out. Therefore, I have to declare Cunning Stunts only a minor success, given that I wanted either a better show or a more innovative performance. I can't compare it to the other Metallica live videos, not having watched them, but I'd say this is a modestly diverting representation of where they stood in 1997.

Some Cunning Stunts!!! - 81%

ExMachina28, March 22nd, 2009

Texas.
1998.
Poor Re-Touring Me tour.
Worth Watching? Yes.
Woth its Price? Not Really.
Kick-Ass? Yes.
As Kick-Ass as Live Shit? Unfortunately, No.
But Still Kick-Ass? Yes.

This video was made when, according to most metalheads, Metallica was at the beggining of their "Sell-Out Era" (And what an annoying term!). As you may notice, all the 80's songs are already tuned in an E Flat like today's shows, and all the members had their hair cutted, like today's shows. It's kind of the sign of what Metallica are today (Though I think they're more kick-ass today than on this DVD).

But let's go to the concert. It starts with "So What!?" On a normal stage that in the midtime of the song goes dark. Not bad at all (The effect). Some songs aren't what they were before, such as Creeping Death (Which I Found Lacking of Energy), Fuel (Metallica seem confused on this one) or Motorbreath (Idem). And though James' Mid-90s Melodic Voice works really good and appropriate on songs like Hero of The Day, King Nothing, Ain't My Bitch or Until it Sleeps; It seems quite Annoying on the 80's songs, or even in the distorted 90's Songs (Such as Fuel). The Backing Vocals done by Jason are reat (I've always thought he's a great Backing-Vocalist, or at least in Metallica) and Kirk's Backing Vocals.... I'll just say that they aren't good.

The Enter Sandman accident scene is one of the things that keeps you stuckk to the chair, because you didn't expect it, you didn't think it was coming, and furthermore, you think "Why the hell is an accident like the Montreal one on the Concert and I didn't hear it on the News?". Good scene. Another worth-watching one is the Bass guitar Doodle, showing us that Jason knows how to compose good Bass melodies, and a great performance of "My Firend of Mysery" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)". The "Making of" Part is not necessary, but still good; though I found James' declarations proper of a Sevent-Heaven Hollywood Star (Which Annoys me, thank God he's not talking that way now).

In conclusion; it's not a bad Live DVD, but it's nothing like Live Shit. On LS you found really Blood-Sweat-&-Tears songs, passioned-but-fun performing and shots that make you feel you're really on San Diego (Or Seattle). If you are a Metalli-Die-Hard Fan (Speacially of the 80's Era), haven't bought a Metallica Live DVD and want to buy one, Live Shit is for you. But if you have already bought Live Shit and want to see how Metallica did their songs live back on the late 90's (And watch James live performing on some good Load-ReLoad songs); you'd better Watch Cunning Stunts. Over-Prized; but still an acceptable Live Album you should have if you're a Metallica Fan.

And as a final note: Looking at the way they do their shows know, I can assure you that their Death Magnetic tour Concerts are a little bit more exciting that this one (And they would be a lot more exciting if today concerts had such scenes as the Enter Sandman ones!).

Score: 4,1/5 - 81/100
Highlights: So What!?, Bass-Guitar Doodle, Enter Sandman
Boring Points: Wherever I May Roam, Am I Evil?

Pretty Damn Cool! - 91%

langstondrive, September 15th, 2003

This showcases Metallica as the band that they once were, not what they have become. They achieve this through combining the perfect mix of old songs, new songs and stage antics in this DVD. The older songs are done very well (although they only play half of Master of Puppets and flow it into the not-nearly-as-good Enter Sandman. Am I Evil? doesn' t have the crushing intro that makes it what it really is, which really takes away from the rest of the song. The Bass/Guitar doodle is great, with My Friend of Misery being one of my favourite bass lines and Sanitarium being one of my favourite guitar riffs. Try to ignore the 4 songs from Load. The other songs overshadow them anyways. Fade to Black has a great outro and Creeping Death is done very well. They also take For Whom the Bell Tolls from Ride the Lightning, which is IMO Metallica's best work. They also do a few covers (Last Caress, Am I Evil?, So What). The Kill/Ride medley is great, too bad they couldn't have replaced the Load songs with full versions of these. Oh well, you can't always get what you want.

This DVD would be an 80. HOWEVER. I give it a 91 because of the ending. After Enter Sandman, the whole place turns dark and some guy just bursts into flames and James says "What the fuck!!?!?!" and the whole fucking stage collapses. After the mayhem is over, a few single lightbulbs are turned on (GREAT ATMOSPHERE) and they kick into Am I Evil? and Motorbreath. Great DVD. Expensive though....

Metallica live - 80%

CrowTRobot, September 12th, 2003

Having never seen Metallica live before, I figured this DVD would be a good place to get a glimpse of the experience. This concert takes place at Fort Worth, Texas in May of 1997. Yes, this means that a good amount of the band's then-current material would be included in the set list, but they added enough classics to please fans of any era.

The opening number, their cover of "So What" starts things off with a bang. "Creeping Death" follows, and kicks major ass. The next few tunes come from the band's 90s stint, but when performed live, they outclass the recorded versions. "One", a concert staple to this day, is performed nearly flawless, with an early version of "Fuel" following. "Nothing Else Matters" and "Until it Sleeps" slow things down quite a bit, but no matter, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" picks up the pace soon after.

Before I go over any other songs, I would like to point something out. The band's performance of the actual songs is great, but their behavior in between songs is pretty idiotic. James is always ranting about how "Metallica loves you man!" and "It's time to fuck shit up!". It gets annoying sometimes. And they're always switching guitars during the breaks. Come on guys; let's act professional here.

Okay, where were we? Ah yes, "Wherever I May Roam" and "Fade to Black" are next, and performed quite nicely. A medley of songs from Kill Em All and Ride the Lightning is also included. I suppose this is okay, but it made more sense when they did that for songs from AJFA, since they were much longer. Oh well.

The second disk concludes the affair, with a cover of "Last Caress", an incomplete version of "Master of Puppets", "Enter Sandman", a cover of "Am I Evil?" and "Motorbreath". Overall, a good set list, but the gimmicks are very half-assed. They could have done without the flaming stuntman running around, or the stage structure collapsing.

Extra Features include interviews with fans, interviews with the band and interviews with the stage crew and technicians. Maybe a few music videos or something would have been nice, but I'd say I got my money's worth.