Donald Trump vs Metallica: One Border Don’t Stop No Show

In 2003, Metallica performed in the prison yard at San Quentin. Frontman James Hetfield was uncharacteristically introspective at the mic: “If I didn’t have music in my life it’s quite possible I’d be in here or, not even here, be dead. I’d much rather be alive. Everyone is born good. Everyone’s got the same size soul. So we’re very proud to be in your house and play some music for you.”

Six years later, Metallica played in front of 50,000 people at Foro Sol stadium in Mexico City. Their pride in being in someone else’s house to play some music was as heartfelt there as it was at San Quentin, as can be seen on the DVD Orgullo, Pasion, Y Gloria. But this time Hetfield is anything but introspective. He begins the show by screaming “Mexico!” and then uses his limited Spanish at every opportunity (the crowd responds by singing the songs word-for-word in English). There’s a way-too-early bass solo (second song) by Robert Trujillo that seems to have been placed there just so Hetfield can joyfully announce “Now welcome my friend Roberto!”

At a pre-show press conference, Trujillo takes a tattered piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolds it and reads slowly in Spanish “I am so happy to be here to play for you, in the country where my mother was born.” The spirit of that message is pushed relentlessly from the stage by all four band members throughout the night. The crowd, the band, and the stadium itself seem to be humming from some internal amplifier. Back and forth the energy goes. Like the repetition in lovemaking, it never grows old.

Finally, Metallica can’t play any longer but they can’t seem to leave. They’re trapped inside the energy wave they’ve helped to create. They take center stage holding a Mexican flag, mugging for the cameras. The stadium gets louder. Then each band member says goodbye in Spanish.  The noise drops a decibel or two and they take that as the cue to make their escape.

The show itself is transcendent—the band delivers a twenty-five year panorama of well-written songs with supreme skill. They are roaring but under control, precise but never rote. Yet the DVD, directed by Wayne Isham, is more than a concert documentary.

Orgullo, Pasion, Y Gloria  conveys the oppressiveness of the Mexican state apparatus as a force that pushes the fans toward Metallica for release. And those fans are allowed to display their “Pride, Passion, and Glory.” They talk about where they come from and why they love Metallica. They perform Metallica songs. They show their love for each other.

Nothing is translated and there are no sub-titles. Hetfield beams as he observes the long line of stalls selling bootleg Metallica gear. “Isn’t this great?” he says without a hint of sarcasm. The effect is to make you feel that instead of watching a Metallica show that just happens to be taking place in Mexico you are actually visiting Mexico and have somehow stumbled across a Metallica show.

Excerpted from a 2011 article in Rock & Rap Confidential….

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

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