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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : From Monsters to a Quiet Charmer : Metallica Gets Crowd Going--Almost Too Far--at 'Monsters'

July 26, 1988|STEVE HOCHMAN

The near-riot that occurred during the marathon "Monsters of Rock" concert at the Coliseum on Sunday could jeopardize future hard-rock shows at the stadium.

Though police said the incident itself resulted in only approximately a dozen arrests and a "handful" of injuries, none serious, Monday the concert's promoter expressed concerns over the seating arrangements.

"I can say in all candor that I would not go back into the Coliseum for a hard-rock show on a reserved basis," said Avalon Attractions President Brian Murphy. "The only way is to use limited general admission on the field and reserved seating in the stands."

Police estimated that 15,000 people streamed from the stands onto the field after breaking down fences as the band Metallica began to play at about 3 p.m. A total of 80,000 people were on hand to see the show, which was headlined by Van Halen and also featured Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.

Murphy claimed that the incident started when people in seats near the front of the stage began to crush to the front and escalated from there.

"Once we lost control of the first 20 rows on the floor we fought an uphill battle the rest of the day," he said, claiming that general admission festival style seating on the field level would have reduced the likelihood of such an incident.

Lt. Fred Nixon of the Los Angeles Police Department said Monday that as far as police officials are concerned, the incident will have no bearing on future Coliseum events. "Any time you get a crowd of that size together the potential for some disturbance is always there," he said. "We feel capable of policing any such gatherings."

Coliseum representative Scott Carmichael said the incident will not affect the scheduling of future concerts are the stadium, but added: "It might affect our outlook on heavy metal shows."

With tempers already short because of the intense afternoon heat, Sunday's melee resulted in a brief, but ugly clash that raised the specter of a full-scale riot. But the rampage quickly played itself out and the show--which had never missed a beat--continued.

Shortly afterwards, the show was stopped briefly after a chair, thrown from the audience, almost hit a member of Metallica. A power outage was blamed for the delay, but security personnel took advantage of the break to remove hundreds of chairs that had been left vacant when fans rushed up to the edge of the stage.

Hours later in the 9-hour event, restless fans in the upper stands launched objects including soda-filled plastic cups and firecrackers on those below.

In between these flare-ups, the audience did get some time to concentrate on the music.

Metallica didn't just make an impression for the stir that accompanied its set. The California band confirmed its reputation as a major new force in the heavy metal world.

Coming after a pedestrian opening set by Kingdom Come (which didn't offer much that suggested it will be able to climb out of the hole it dug for itself by tracing Led Zeppelin's revered musical formula so faithfully in its debut LP), Metallica's exciting, visceral approach combines jackhammer rhythms with often warfare-oriented imagery, both delivered with mythic grandeur without the pompous frills and flourishes often associated with metal and progressive rock. And the crowd's response--even apart from the stampede--was remarkable.

On tunes like "Search and Destroy," fists pumped the air and the crowd sang along with the lock-step precision of a Nuremberg rally--though to be fair, it was no more so than the follow-the-leader-rituals that take place at a Bruce Springsteen or U2 concert. And it certainly proved that the Coliseum concert's one-day postponement due to Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar's throat infection did nothing to curb the fans' enthusiasm.

After that, sets by L.A.'s melodic Dokken and the droning German group Scorpions seemed tame and turgid--the kind of stuff the Tubes and Blue Oyster Cult were parodying nearly 15 years ago. In the wake of the thunder generated by Metallica's set, these two bands seemed barely there.

But then Van Halen nearly reclaimed the event as its own on party spirit alone. More an inventive pop-rock group than a relentless heavy-metal band, the pride of Pasadena offered a greatest hits package that included many of it's old songs. No artistic risks were taken but it pleased the large crowd nonetheless.

If sometimes Hagar's endless (or mindless ) party mentality seems at odds with the rest of the quartet's musical creativity, that seems to be the nature of this particular beast. And Hagar and guitarist Eddie Van Halen do make one of the most lively buddy teams in rock with their happy-go-lucky playfulness.

Hagar's one-of-the-boys approach is refreshingly earthier than former lead singer David Lee Roth's look-at-me-I'm-a-star persona, but it's also colorless: Silicon Sammy next to Diamond Dave. And nothing Van Halen did Sunday altered the earlier impression that Metallica is making the metal of the moment--and likely the future.

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