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Well worth it... - 90%

evilution, April 6th, 2003

Note: I am reviewing the original release on VHS, not the recent dvd box.

To my knowledge, there is no live album in existence which is as ambitious as this one. After the black album tour, the logical next step in Metallica's career was a live album, both to capitalize on their astonishing popularity and to remind their fans of the power of their concert experience. With this box, metallica clearly went beyond this obligation, releasing not one but three complete shows.

The highlight here is the Seattle show from 1989. I've watched this video countless times over the years, and their intensity and dexterity never get boring. Many of Metallica most complex and technical songs are included here, including most of the ..And Justice for All album, and seeing these songs performed live is amazing. Aside from the songs, Metallica works the crowd in an entertaining and amusing fashion, as when James exhorts the legion of headbangers to scream out a string of obscenities to wake up the neighbors. Furthermore, the stage show is bombastic and enormous, and watching the Lady Justice statue fall to pieces during the title track (and seeing Kirk Hammet's frightened reaction, is the highlight of this video.

The other two shows come from the Black Album tour, but they nevertheless have fairly different setlists. The only downside of the performances is the unfortunately large amount of bullshit. One hour into the shows, there is a break for 20 minutes of bass and guitar solos, which are occasionally interesting but more often simple boring wankery. The next such moment occurs as Metallica draws 5 minute thrash song Seek and Destroy out into a 20 minute sing-along, with James letting members of the audience yell the chorus into his microphone. On top of this, San Diego features a drum solo, which is more an excuse for James and Lars to goof around a bit more. It is amusing to see James drum, but it isn't something worth watching over and over. I suppose these breaks were necessary as Metallica played three hour shows almost every night for the better part of two years, but watching them on a video or hearing them on cd just isn't very interesting. On the other hand, it keeps in line with Metallica's goal of presenting the entire show, warts and all, and not releasing a studio album with crowd noise added.

Another excellent inclusion is the book, which, in addition to cataloguing every date of the tour also provides an insight into daily life on the road through tour riders, faxes, and even bills for alcohol-fueled destruction. It seems as though this was the last tour where Metallica really had fun, before becoming much more professional about the whole thing.

So, while it is certainly a bit expensive, this set is well worth the money, as it offers a comprehensive look at the world's biggest metal band at the height of their career.