Metallica Review (24th April 2013 Bellville Velodrome, Cape Town)

Written by Kenneth Keiser

Photography by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa


Metallica is a multi-platinum metal band proclaimed to be the most influential metal band of the century. They arrived in Cape Town on the 24th April to play the first of two shows at the Bellville Velodrome to their “Cape Town family”, as James Hetfield himself told the crowd. They were humble enough to offer a South African band an opening slot with their “Metallica opening band search”, but little did we know that the genre “metal” has been misunderstood by most of the voters in South Africa. The winner was Afrikaans alternative rockers Van Coke Kartel.

Metallica by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa

Metallica by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa

What a golden opportunity for this band indeed, being able to perform in both opening slots for Metallica. Unfortunately, whilst VCK were up on stage, the crowd only responded to the words “Metallica” and “brandy”, and the performance was marred by bad sound. Francois Van Coke, lead vocalist of VCK, with sometimes lacking vocals, doesn’t seem to support the great talents they have in playing their instruments. I agree that they have great energy and a brilliant stage presence, but their performance didn’t astound many in the crowd. Even though I didn’t think they were cut out for the role of opening act for Metallica and didn’t suit the genre, I’m still proud of the fact that South Africa can produce such an enthusiastic band who clearly appreciated the magnitude of their honour.

The rustle started with the Metallica crew setting up the stage as VCK trooped off. It seemed like it was badly organized. There were many people on and off the stage, lights being tested, guitars being tuned, sound checks being made and Mr Lars’ drum kit (covered with lights) set up, and then finally a little conversation bloomed within the crowd: “where’s the big screen for the fans far away?” Suddenly the whole back panel stage became one massive screen and you could almost see every detail on stage in shockingly good quality.

One guy grabbed me by the shoulder and asked, “What’s your opening song opinion?” He had already chosen “Sad but True”; I went for “Master of Puppets”, but it turned out to be neither of those. The music started with a massive tease of drum rolls and distortion. Out came the masters of metal and smashed into “Hit the Lights” making the crowd roar with excitement. It was old school Metallica personified. They continued to surprise the masses with every song, performing classics like “Ride the Lightning”, “Orion” and “The Unforgiven”.

Metallica by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa2

Metallica by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa

The most shocking of all the songs that were performed was “One”, mostly because the intro was almost exactly the same as the studio recording from the early 80’s, with blasts and flames from the stage lighting up the whole Velodrome and filling it with smoke. Tension fell across every single person present with the deep emotions and anger of the classic, unforgettable anthem. The same goes for “Blackened” in my opinion, a frenetic slice of metal that lingers in your mind long after the show.

There was one specific part that still gives me the chills thinking about it now. Whilst concluding “Nothing Else Matters”, James went on his knees with the camera up close in his face, and you could see that he loved being where he was right at that moment. He then looked straight into the lens, showed his pick to the crowd, flipped it over and boasted the “Metallica” imprinted on it, and then clutched it between his fingers whilst raising the classic horns hand sign. It felt like he was acknowledging me personally, something I guess every fan in that crowd thought.

They ended their set with “Enter Sandman”, but the masses wanted more, everyone refusing to move away from where they were, screaming and shouting for Metallica. James got the crowd playing along with his little game of an “encore” and then they gave us all what we wanted by playing “Seek & Destroy”. Simultaneously, giant beach balls emblazoned with the Metallica logo fell from the rooftop into the middle of the crowd. The last three songs were performed with feverish excitement running high throughout the whole Velodrome. I am sure we here in South Africa got the best out them, as it seemed more intimate than what you would see in their international shows in bigger venues. This was one great night that will stay with me forever, and proved that Metallica will always remain one of my favourite bands.

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