Metallica’s ‘Intimate’ O2 Gig Reviewed With Reference To Roger Scruton

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Metallica Live

O2 Arena, Greenwich, London

Question: how do you know when you’re the biggest rock band in the world?

Answer: When your intimate, fan only album launch party is a completely packed Millennium dome? Perhaps.

Maybe a better indicator is when even famously conservative philosophers start name-checking you as the only rock band they listen to as a break from the Beethoven and Mahler.

Roger Scruton is one of the world’s best known living philosophers and is very much aligned with conservatism here and in America, where he lectures. On the face of it perhaps he isn’t the first person you’d imagine saying: "I have actually been listening to quite a bit of heavy metal lately, and Metallica, I think, is genuinely talented. Master of Puppets I think has got something genuinely both poetic – violently poetic – and musical." (Read Roger Scruton’s comments on Metallica here.)

When you add this to the fact that Scruton (double props on him picking out Master as his favourite) has previously laid into the tediousness of The Verve, R.E.M. and Oasis with pleasing vigour and vim, we can only applaud his taste in music if not warming entirely to his general world view. Of course perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise… Scruton, as the author of Animal Rights and Wrongs and a vocal defender of fox hunting, would perhaps find himself welcome on one of James Hetfield’s Russian bear hunting trips.

In fact, his first ever published work, Art and Imagination (1974), shows that he would have much to talk about with diminutive but effervescent sticksman and modern art collector Lars Ulrich.

But he has much to bond him to the band, not the least Scruton’s love of music (his book The Aesthetics Of Music, several works on Wagner and the fact he is a composer himself). And what is heavy metal but the logical progression of Wagner with all of its bass-heavy bombast, pride in virtuosity and technical skill; as well as sturm und drang? Like the band, he is a thirsty man and regularly waxes lyrical about his love of booze in The World Of Fine Wine magazine and New Statesman. And the shock haired thinker has also had his fair share of controversy concerning intoxicating substances. One of Scruton’s business ventures was working for a consulting firm advising one of the world’s biggest ciggie firms, Japan Tobacco International. In 2002 he was lambasted by The Guardian after asking the tobacco peddlers for a grand a month for getting them into several papers including The Times, The Telegraph, The FT, the Indie and The Wall Street Journal. As a result of the disclosure The FT dropped his column, ‘This Land’ like a hot brick.

One would presume that they share his disdain for ‘manufactured’ pop music. Scruton was once successfully sued by the Pet Shop Boys for claiming: "serious doubts arise as to whether the performers made more than a minimal contribution to the recording." Whatever.

We at The Quietus find it as good an indicator of their dominance as anything else. Metallica have pretty much found the philosopher’s stone (or the philosopher’s rock or the philosopher’s stadium metal) in their career. They are so big they can weather any storms such as the recording of the mainly despised St Anger and the bizarre, if understandable, move of suing their own fans for illegally downloading their music.

The first of these things is referred to in a droll manner by Hetfield, the imposing looking Dane fronting the band. "This is from the well loved St Anger album. Say what you will – this still kicks ass", he laughs as he introduces ‘Frantic’. And it does. This evening of "fan favourites" is super loud and super tight, hyping the capacity crowd of the devoted up to feverishness. They are still obviously quite annoyed with the internet however and he seems less relaxed when he barks at us to put our phones and cameras away: "You can call your mum later man. Some shitty little two inch square blob on YouTube is not going to make you famous. Just enjoy this moment man." Well, while they’re playing ‘Of Wolf And Man’ it’s quite easy to do this. One hopes that Mr Scruton is up in the gods somewhere spurred into mental action about nature versus nurture by the song.

Other highlights out of an excellent set are ‘That Was Just Your Life’ the opening salvo from their ‘return to form’ album Death Magnetic; the always mighty and, dare one say it, philosophical rumination of the sheer bastardry of the transience of life culled from John Donne via Ernest Hemmingway: ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’; the creeping terror of the song that can not be described in human words lest it drive the reader insane, ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ and ‘Seek and Destroy’.

They send us staggering away into the night with ringing in the ears and plenty to think about.

Metallica O2 Arena Set list:

‘That Was Just Your Life’

‘The End Of The Line’

‘The Thing That Should Not Be’

‘Of Wolf And Man’


‘Broken, Beat And Scarred’



‘Until It Sleeps’

‘Wherever I May Roam’

‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’

‘The Day That Never Comes’

‘Master Of Puppets’


‘Stone Cold Crazy’

‘Jump In The Fire’

‘Seek and Destroy’

Next week: Shocking new evidence suggests that Louis Althusseur’s 1990 death was directly linked to Slayer’s ‘accessible’ new direction with Seasons In the Abyss.

Breaking news: Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens come to blows in the Cro Bar. Violent disagreement over Prong’s best album said to be to blame.

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