Jakarta’s unforgiving traffic took on a particular impatience on Sunday, fueled not by the batik-clad and sleepy-eyed workforce, but a hungry sea of unfettered black. Rock fans, decked in their dark band T-shirts, ponytails and rocker boots surged through the area’s every nook and cranny, their enthusiasm electrifying everything it touched in South Jakarta. The occasion? The two-decade wait was over; Metallica was in town.
The American heavy metal band’s second Jakarta concert in 20 years was met with excitement by the country’s consistently devoted metal community. So it was only appropriate that the event was hosted in the city’s largest stadium, Gelora Bung Karno — a venue normally reserved for high-profile football matches and political rallies.
Organizer Blackrock Entertainment prepared well given the scale of the event, factoring in the 1993 experience, when riots and car burning followed after frustrated fans were unable to enter the concert. This time security was beefed up, cutting the chances of spontaneous campfires and brawls. Though thugs continued to rule the parking spaces of Senayan, the crowds and entrance control were well managed.
At around 7 p.m., the four-member Jakarta-based rock titan Seringai (Grin) opened the show. Plucking the nationalist heartstrings, the performance began with a guest songstress singing “Indonesia Raya” in a capella, which brought crowd members to their feet, singing with ardent valor and pride.
Soon after, lead singer Arian 13 commanded the stage, building an immediate rapport with fans, even though the early hour meant the stadium was only half full.
Though not everyone watching seemed to recognize the band’s set list, there was no denying the excitement inherent in songs like “Program Party Seringai” and “Tragedi,” which the band delivered with all the conviction of a seasoned act.
Guitarist Ricky Siahaan, bassist Sammy Brahmantyo and drummer Khemod Domekide joined Arian in swaying their bodies to the beat like it was the best show they ever played (and it probably was). Though Seringai members are no strangers to the big stage, the excitement of opening for their heroes, Metallica, gave their performance an extra boost, and everyone watching could feel it.
When Metallica finally took the stage at around 8 p.m., the crowd was ready. The animated yelps that greeted the band’s intro, Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” from the iconic spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” was a good indicator for what was to come.
The band then launched into “Hit the Lights” from 1983 debut “Kill ’Em All,” and 60,000-plus people went into a frenzy. The title track from the band’s third album “Master of Puppets” followed. One of Metallica’s best-known songs, and blessed with a made-for-stadium chorus, it was one of the night’s highlights. Other hits and fan favorites followed, including the iconic instrumental “Orion,” “Blackened” (from the band’s fourth record “...And Justice For All”) and commercial hits “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters.”
“Fade to Black,” one of the band’s earliest semi-ballads (from 1984’s “Ride The Lightning”) had the stadium’s 60,000 voices singing in unison. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” was another old favorite with its soft-to-loud dynamic meaning plenty of crowd dramatics. Many fans had their whole body swaying while mouthing every word.
Backed by three high-definition screens, the band both looked and sounded larger than life. There was a slight problem with the guitar, which sounded fuzzy at times, though it was never jarring enough to ebb the power emanating from the stage.
Like other bands of its caliber, Metallica’s execution was effective and filled with crowd-baiting tricks. Its production was professional. Sunday night, the band’s music entranced the phenomenal crowd, a sight to behold given its size and energy. (A rousing welcome was given to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo who boosted his own street cred as he entered the arena).
Metallica knew its crowd, and played to please with surefire hits. It may not have been the most musically challenging show but it more than made up for Indonesia’s 20 years without the legends of heavy metal.