Metallica: Français pour une nuit

Metallica - Français pour une nuitSynopsis: Founded in Los Angeles in 1981 by drummer Lars Ulrich as well as guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield, Metallica has become one of the most influential rock bands and has to its credit sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

Discover ‘Français pour une nuit’, a film of the entire concert that the legendary Metallica gave on July 7 at the Arena of Nimes. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo), landed at Nimes and made their entry in the Coliseum, through the tunnel of the Gladiators, and gave an unforgettable concert.

‘Français pour une nuit’ follows the success of “Death Magnetic”, Metallica’s critically-acclaimed tenth album. “Death Magnetic” was the first Metallica album to remain number one in England for two weeks. This album also reached the top sales spot in thirty countries and accumulated nearly five million sales worldwide!

Recorded at the Arènes de Nîmes in France on 7th July 2009 during the World Magnetic Tour, ‘Français pour une nuit’ is unique in that not only was it filmed in France, but all aspects of the project are French. The concert was filmed, recorded, and edited with French camera and recording crews; the artwork was created by a French design team; even the credits are in French.

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Metallica: Français pour une nuit 8.0

eyelights: the jaw-droppingly awesome venue. Robert Trujillo. the set list.
eyesores: the jittery camera. the audio mix.

‘Français pour une nuit’ is the recording of a historic concert that Metallica performed at the Nîmes arena in France on July 7th, 2009.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is because it was recorded, edited and marketed by French crews for a French audience. The film was broadcast in cinemas across France, and later released on home video there.

It was also officially released on home video in North America, but I haven’t seen one store who carried it (except for that one second-hand copied I dug up).

It’s a real shame, though: ‘Français pour une nuit’ has Metallica at their best, touring their then-latest effort, ‘Death Magnetic’ to thousands of fans in this Roman-era amphitheatre. To say that it’s a unique show is an understatement: the architecture and set-up alone make this out-of-the-ordinary, lending the event an epic quality rarely found at rock concerts.

The blu-ray offers the concert in its entirety, aside from the opening acts, beginning with an aerial view of this phenomenal venue and the roaring masses inside. Within moments, “The Ecstasy of Gold”, the rousing theme from ‘Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo’ introduced the band to their audience, and they made their way to the stage:

1. The Ecstasy of Gold: This is just a recording, but it’s a track that Metallica has been using for well over two decades to walk onstage to. In this venue, it seems even more appropriate. Too bad that their timing was off and they arrived after the song was over, not during. 8.0

2. Blackened: An awesome start to the show – it’s powerful, and brutal. There’s no messing about here. 8.0

3. Creeping Death: I’m sick of hearing this song, but it’s such a crusher, especially after “Blackened” 8.0

4. Fuel: A crappy song, lyrically (Metallica singing about cars? Yuck!), but it was a good fit in the set. Appropriately, given the lyrical content, there was fire everywhere for this one. 7.5

5. Harvester of Sorrow: Starts awesome, but it gets boring fast – it’s far too repetitious. I’ve long loathed it and found it to be a mere pre-cursor to the even more simple-minded “Sad But True”. 7.0

6. Fade to Black: One of my all-time favourite songs, but it got spoiled by James asking the crowd “Do you feel it? Do you feel like I do?” right before the poignant bit. Yuck. Then he sang over the final driving bit. !@#$ 7.5

7. Broken, Beat and Scarred: The lyrics are dubious, but this was pretty good nonetheless. There were some great double bass drum moments. 7.5

8. Cyanide: There are lots of terrific passages in this song. It’s likely to grow on me over time. 7.5

9. Sad But True: I hate this song, sad but true; it’s far too repetitious and simple-minded. It’s as though they took the simplicity of “Harvester of Sorrow” and found a way of stripping it even further. Yawn. I’d give it a 4.0, but Trujillo had a miniscule bass solo on its tail end, which I liked. So 4.5 it is.

10. One: Lots of fire on this one, along with gunfire. Still an excellent song (one of my all-time favourites as well!), but James over-sings throughout and it kind of deters from the song’s raw quality. 8.5

11. All Nightmare Long: I didn’t recall this song at first, but it’s another bruising number from ‘Death Magnetic’. Awesome stuff: so metal!!! 8.0

12. Guitar solo: Mercifully short, Kirk didn’t shine here. My buddy remarked “Well, that was a waste of time”, after its… what?… one-minute runtime. I didn’t mind it as much. 5.5

13. The Day That Never Comes: This was the first single off of ‘Death Magnetic’ and while it’s not prime Metallica, it’s pretty good as a mix of new and old Metallica. It has some really great moments, especially the last half of it. 8.0

14. Master of Puppets: Before kicking into this classic, the band played a rowdy rendition of “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem. Then they just blew the roof off with the masterful “Master of Puppets”. Oh yeah… there was no roof. 8.5

15. Dyers Eve: I always wanted to hear this song live; for some reason, I was under the impression that they never played it, so I never expected it. Nice! It’s such a thrashing, blistering piece that hearing it totally made my day. I always loved that they closed “…And Justice for All” on such a killer note. 8.25

16. Guitar solo: It was such a beautiful tranquil piece, that it may seem out of place at a metal concert. But since it was first introduced by James, it was given a legitimacy that it wouldn’t have had if Kirk had just started playing with no forewarning. It gave us pause and provided the song with context. 7.75

17. Nothing Else Matters: I am sick to death of this song, having played it and heard it far too often. It also doesn’t fit in a heavy show. But, with Kirk’s solo preceding it, the stage was set for it, and… I actually really liked it. So Kirk’s solo was absolutely perfectly-suited as transitional material. 7.75

18. Enter Sandman: Somehow, the band had fire rigged at the top of the coliseum. I don’t know how they got the permit to do this, but it was used to great effect twice, at the beginning and during the song. Wicked. I’m sick of the song, but I have to admit it’s really, really catchy. 8.0

19. Stone Cold Crazy: The first encore, this is a faithful rendition of the Queen classic. Metallica first recorded this for an Elektra Records anniversary compilation back in the late ’80s and it’s been a staple of their live sets since. 8.0

20. Motorbreath: YEAH!!! The lyrics are stupid but the music is all killer, no filler. They took no prisoners with this one! 8.0

21. Seek and Destroy: This may be a second encore, or just an extra track (we can’t tell from the way the show is edited), but Metallica had the lights turned on in the coliseum to bring the whole crowd together, large black balloons fell into the crowd, and onto the stage, and they proceeded to do a solid version of this old classic, which they used to get the crowd to sing along. It was a great closer, even if the song is so-so. James sure knows how to work the crowd 8.0

It was a terrific set, perfectly picked out and flowing. The show ended with the band saying goodbye to the crowd with a few French words (Trujillo made the most effort of the lot, with Lars not even bothering a simple “merci”), then giving out picks, drum sticks and interacting with the people in the first few rows. It was quite the show, no doubt a memorable night for all.

This was a pretty simple concert, production-wise. Most of the effort probably went into just setting up in this unusual venue, which is shaped completely differently from a North American concert hall or arena. Aside from some lights and the intermittent fire cannons and columns, which was only on a few songs, it was just the band working this spectacular crowd.

The thing for me is that I find was that James doesn’t fit very well anymore now that he’s got that southern, roadster look (with all the tats and hankie in his back pocket), but he still has a lot of presence and can make for a great frontman. My buddy felt that it’s not an equal split in Metallica, that James’ stage presence counts for 50% of the band’s overall presence. I agree.

And this is why I hate it when he sucks or simply disappoints, because it takes the band down a few notches. Ever since his sobriety and therapy, he has this tendency for sentiment that tends to pervade the shows. I’m really glad that he’s a happier person, I really am, but I hate that it trickles into a concert whose themes are death, despair, desolation, …etc. It simply doesn’t fit.

Conversely, Robert doesn’t fit the metal genre whatsoever, style-wise, what with his basketball tops and shorts, as well as his white socks and sneakers. But the guy brings such heft and power to the group that they would feel limp without him – especially as they mellow out. He’s a pretty much force of nature, a monster in the best possible sense. He overpowers any possible misgiving one might have.

Lars and Kirk were both quite good, both of them played their asses off, but they didn’t really take up that much space. Kirk never has, quite frankly, but it was surprising to see Lars take as much of a back seat as he did here – he used to be the one working the crowd from behind his drum kit. Now he just contentedly beats his skins – extremely well, I might add.

If I have any complaints at all it’s actually mostly about the technical quality of the blu-ray disc itself, not the show. For starters, there was the regular shaking of one of the front cameras – even during mellow bits like “Nothing Else Matters”! I don’t know why that is, but it could get annoying. Thankfully, there were plenty of other cameras, and they were all perfect.

(As a point of reference, I checked out a few other reviews of this BD and there is no mention of this shaky-cam problem. I wonder if there were some pressings of the disc that are botched somehow… and that i got one of those. Or maybe these people just watched the film on too small a screen to notice!)

Another issue, and this is a minor reproach, was how low Trujillo’s bass was in the mix. Now I’m not claiming any conspiracy here, but all Metallica fans know about Newsted’s bass parts being mixed down for ‘…And Justice For All’, so I’m hoping there’s nothing to it. To me, it was disappointing that we couldn’t hear Trujillo more cleanly; I’m a big bass fan.

The blu-ray also includes over 30 minutes with the band, discussing the new album, subsequent tour and the show in Nîmes. They all come off as natural, congenial and professional (aside for Trujillo, who is all those things but natural; it feels as though he’s trying really hard to be diplomatic, to say the right things, but it doesn’t seem effortless for him and he comes off slightly artificial).

There are also five short fan-made films of their respective concert experience. I don’t know what the story behind this is, but it seems like these people were contest winners of some sort. At 2 mins a piece, they were largely redundant, seemingly filmed on cel phones, sloppily edited with the music cues poorly overlayed. I got sick of it midway through the third one and skipped the rest.

All in all, though, it’s a very nice package. The concert is something to behold: the set list is phenomenal (given that they changed up their set lists on a regular basis during the tour, Nîmes got very lucky – it’s my favourite of the post-“Death Magnetic” shows), the band plays their hearts out, the grandeur of the setting is awe-inspiring, and the video and audio is mostly superb. Do check it out if you can.

Date of viewing: November 10, 2013

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