– S&M Review Essay, Research Paper
The nights of April 21-22, 1999 in Berkeley, California, The San Francisco Symphony was
joined by the rock band, Metallica for a performance at the Berkeley Community Theater. It was
conducted by Micheal Kamen. The hall was filled to capacity with both hardcore Metallica fans.
Before the concert even started, they were on their feet, cheering for both Metallica and the
members of the symphony. The were all dressed in street clothes. Most opted to wear jeans and a
Metallica shirt. The members of Metallica, James Hetfield, the guitarist and vocalist, Lars Ulrich,
the drummer, Kirk Hammett on lead guitar, and Jason Newsted, on the bass guitar, were also in
street clothes. With the exception of Lars, who wore a white T-shirt the band wore all black. The
conductor and the members of the symphony all dressed formally, wearing ties and tails. Ushers
also wore formal uniforms.
The music was amazing. The symphony complimented the electric instruments perfectly.
The symphony played so well, that someone who had never heard a Metallica song before would
think Metallica had always been backed by a symphony. The orchestral music was in the style of
the 20th century because it was by Micheal Kamen, a 20th century composer.
The song that appealed to me the most was “No Leaf Clover” by James Hetfield and Lars
Ulrich, written in 1999. It starts off slow with just strings, some brass, and Kirk Hammett playing
lead guitar. Then Lars comes in on the drums, while James and Jason come in with rhythm guitar
and bass guitar. James sings a verse and then the rhythm guitar and bass stop and the intro
repeats but the drums play with it this time, and the lead Kirk plays on his guitar is slightly
different. James also sings this time while it is being played. After that they go back into a verse
with all the electric instruments, the drums and the strings playing. This is followed by the
chorus. During the chorus James sings the words, while all of the electric instruments are played.
They were backed by strings. Then the strings and drums continue, while Kirk plays an
incredibly complex lead. After this he is once again joined by the other electric instruments, and
eventually they go back into the chorus. Then all the instruments keep going higher and higher in
tone, until they crescendo and the song ends.
All of the songs are very intense. The pounding drums and raunchy riffs, backed by the
orchestra make you want to jump up and down and shout, with your fists in the air. The feeling is
like a drug, you don’t want the music to stop, and when it does stop you want more.
The members of Metallica are professionals when it comes to working the crowd, but the
players in the orchestra also put on quite a show. The members of the symphony would stand up
when a member of Metallica came over and played in their area, giving themselves to the music.
They really got into it and the crowd loved them for it. All in all the rock musicians and the
classical musicians looked comfortable with each other and their music blended very well
While the rock is nothing new to me since I play guitar myself and work for a local band
as their sound tech, the symphony was a new experience for me. The only classical music I had
ever heard up until this point was from Bugs Bunny cartoons. I really enjoy listening to this
album. I find myself even listening to the tracks that Metallica doesn’t play on. “S&M” is unlike
any other album I have ever heard. I wouldn’t say the performance was different from what I
expected because I really did not know what to expect. Metallica is a very versatile band and
when they are backed by musicians as talented as those in an orchestra, anything is possible.
While many rock bands have used orchestras to back them on a song or two they have
never made use of an orchestra of this size, for this many songs. The Beatles did in on “Sgt.
Pepper,” Bush did it on “Glycerine,” and Creed did it on “With Arms Wide Open,” but none of
them were able to fully capture the feeling of a full orchestra as well as Metallica did. I would
definitely recommend this album to anyone that likes either rock music or classical music. If
Metallica was ever to do something like this again I would most certainly try to get tickets to it
whether I was required or not.
S&M – Metallica
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