Even for non-hardcore Metallica fans, this concert is a must-see if only for the novelty of watching this hard rock band blend with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen......and the effect is simply stunning. On my want list for a long time, my ex bought me this two-disc concert on DVD this past holiday season, and while I am not a diehard Metallica fan, more of a surface fan of their stuff, this concert was fascinating to watch.

While an original idea in itself for a band like Metallica to pair up with a symphony orchestra to play many of their big hits, and some recent ones from albums such as LOAD and RELOAD, the camera work is what makes S&M so fascinating, too, as we watch the camera zoom from orchestra to Metallica members rocking away on guitars and drums and then back to conductor Mike Kamen. This is NOT your average Metallica conert or crowd, with off-the-wall roaring and screaming around a massive arena....yes, there are hardcore Metallica fans in the audience, but this concert is a much softer approach to their music, and I think fans knew this because while there is crowd roar, it is not deafening as at most Metallica shows. The orchestra in the background adds a really classy touch to some of their hits like "One", "Enter Sandman", "Nothing Else Matters" and more. Here's a rundown on which songs the band performs on each disc:

1. The Ecstasy Of Gold
2. The Call of Ktulu
3. Master of Puppets
4. Of Wolf and Man
5. The Thing That Should Not Be
6. Fuel
7. The Memory Remains
8. No Leaf Clover
9. Hero of the Day
10. Devil's Dance
11. Bleeding Me

1. Nothing Else Matters
2. Until It Sleeps
3. For Whom The Bell Tolls
4. Human
5. Wherever I May Roam
6. Outlaw Torn
7. Sad But True
8. One
9. Enter Sandman
10. Battery

S&M was made available as an audio-only CD set also, and spinned off some radio hits directly from this concert such as NO LEAF CLOVER, which is probably the best song on both discs. While not covering all of Metallica's inventory, this concert pulls together some of their more popular stuff from the BLACK album and mixes it with the warm sounds of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, who plays right alongside the band and keeps up with their frantic, hard-rocking pace, even the violinists and trombone players. It adds a nice touch to Metallica's hard edged sound, and it was a worthwhile experiment by the band that paid off because this is one of the most enjoyable concerts to watch on home video, next to gems like Fleetwood Mac: Tango in the Night Live, which was awesome too, and will be my next purchase concert-wise.

The main problem with S&M is that the two and one half hour concert was shot for this DVD set over a couple of nights, and you can tell there are some audio sync problems when you see closeups of James Hettfield or other band members; this is no doubt due to the fact that some post-stage dubbing had to be done for this DVD. But this two-disc concert packs a WALLOP in terms of special features and audio choices, so lets explore some of those:


Shot for 4X3 sets, S&M is a fullscreen presentation only, but it looked fine on my 16X9 set; there are some moments of shimmering when the camera abruptly moves from one of the Metallica members, say, to the shining cymbal of a drumset, but other than that, the disc seemed clear enough for a concert and certainly watchable. Some camera shots, as I had mentioned, were pretty cool, as some of the band members wait for the orchestra to begin with their strings or horns, and then walk onto stage and begin playing their parts while the crowd roars around them; its a pretty fascinating video presentation. There are more than a few closeups of conductor Michael Kamen as he controls the orchestra in time with Metallica's rapid pace.


You can be a bit overwhelmed when picking audio tracks to play S&M back with; there is a way to watch the entire concert in either Dolby 5.1 discrete or stereo, and then there are ways you can isolate listening to just the band or just the orchestra; the disc, mysteriously, defaults to the stereo mix when you pop it in your player. The only way to get to the Dolby 5.1 mix is to go into the loudly animated menu and select the Dolby 5.1 track. But THAT is the track you want to listen to this concert in ---- without a subwoofer, I couldnt appreciate S&M as much as I did, with my sub now plugged back into my "borrowed" family's system. Let me make some comments about this 5.1 mix; first of all, it is actually on the low side of overall volume output --- not horribly low, but lower than you'd expect from a rock concert. With that aside, lead singler James Hettfield's voice comes BOOMING so much louder than the rest of the mix from the center channel that is is downright stunning and distracting sometimes ---- you will feel as if Hettfield is right there in your living room, screaming into that mic and breathing between lyrics. The center seems to have been pumped WAY up in relation to the rest of the mix on S&M.

But otherwise, crowd applause and roars fill the surrounds appropriately, and the orchestra wraps richly around the soundstage; a very nice, well-done, polished Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that can be appreciated with a subwoofer once Lars Urlich, Metallica's drummer, begins beating his tones out.....its not LFE that will shake you house down, but it does make you feel, if your master volume is up high enough, like you are in the middle of that concert in San Francisco.

Here's what else was on this two disc set from Elektra Entertainment:

-41 minute documentary featuring a look into the making of S&M including behind the scenes footage, interviews with Metallica, Michael Kamen, the SF Symphony and much more
-Four mult-angle songs, which allow the viewer to choose the camera angle
-Full combined performance in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound and stereo plus separate stereo tracks for band and orchestra
-Full motion menus
-DVD-ROM playability and Internet connection
-Close captioning and subtitling

One thing I did notice is that I believe there is a song missing from the second disc of the concert that may have been on the audio CD of S&M; I have to confirm this though.....

The packaging is impressive, too, with the two discs in their own tray case and then put inside a bigger box holding the the tray case; a snapshot of James Hettfield's legs with his arms holding his guitar adorn the front of the box, with the title "METALLICA WITH MICHAEL KAMEN CONDUCTING THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA" boldly proclaimed on the top of the cover. There is also a Parental Advisory label on the corner of the box due to the fact that there are moments lead singer Hettfield swicthes some lyrics, like during the song "One", for obscenities, but it doesnt happen too often.