Photos by Brady Cooling
Recap by Max Stewart
It is 2017, and Metallica still reigns as the almighty kings of metal, and man is that refreshing. In the days of auto-tune, electronic garble, and cringe-worthy Top 40 material, rock fans can all take comfort in the fact that a band like Metallica is still playing football stadiums to legions of metalheads. Not only that, fans who attended the band’s first show of their North American tour at M&T Bank Stadium on May 10 ranged from purist headbangers around since the Kill ‘Em All days to teenagers struggling to learn some of Lead Guitarist’s Kirk Hammett’s riffs in their basement. Remarkably, the band has not lost a spark of energy, even in their 36th year performing together. Singer / Guitarist James Hetfield, Drummer Lars Ulrich, Bassist Robert Trujillo, and Hammett all maintained an infectious exuberance while thrashing their way through a timeless catalog of Heavy Metal tunes.
The audience clung to every distorted note and splintering guitar solo, screaming (“Seek and Destroy”) and singing joyously (“Nothing Else Matters”) when it was required. The night was certainly not a ‘Greatest Hits’ show in which the band phoned it in, took their check, and went back to the hotel. The setlist leaned heavily on the strong new material from their latest album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, most notably “Atlas, Rise!” and “Now That We’re Dead” (where all members played in a massive drum circle). Their song selection of earlier releases was well-balanced and piercingly executed, including two from their debut Kill ‘Em All (ferocious “Hit The Lights” and set-closer “Seek & Destroy”), two from 1984’s Ride The Lightning (monstrously epic “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and power-ballad “Fade to Black”), two from 1986’s Masters of Puppets (thrashing “Battery” and “Master of Puppets”), and one from 1988’s …And Justice for All (ironically, “One”).
Ulrich’s passionate devotion to every snare hit alongside Trujillo’s crawling intensity on bass make Metallica’s rhythm section the most boisterous and fun in rock. That alone is a reason to check them out. Playing to the masses in a stadium, Metallica certainly brought the heat to all in attendance (literally, using a heavy dose of pyrotechnics), including to folks in the nosebleed Section 400s. Those fans in the far corners of M&T Bank Stadium had to enjoy the full-scale production complete with gargantuan screens behind the stage playing a variety of graphics and storylines (“Fuel” was a gasoline-doused fury), giant balloons with the new album artwork, and a catwalk where the band played near the 50-yard line to emulate “reproduction of [Hetfield’s] garage” during “Seek & Destroy” (a “pretty big garage”). Their self-titled and best-selling record to date (dubbed, The Black Album) was well-represented and included the broodingly-heavy “Sad But True,” and the drive-time staple, “Enter Sandman.”
Metallica is by far and away the most successful metal band of all time, selling over 150 million records worldwide. With that unfathomable amount of success, seeing them in concert is certainly an epic spectacle, but one that will make you feel alive and well (with METAL coursing through your veins…). During the breakdown of “Enter Sandman,” Hetfield asked, “Baltimore, did you have fun toniiiiiight?” to a mass of fist-pounding cheers. “We did too, babbbaaayyyaaahhh,” before a flutter of ass-kicking fireworks set off to end the night. Given that they have had their fair share of tragedy (Bassist Cliff Burton’s death in 1986) and inner turmoil (the St. Anger era), fans have to love seeing Metallica enjoying themselves onstage as they feed off the excitement of a monstrous crowd. The band also seems to genuinely appreciate their die-hard fans, spending what seemed like 10 minutes after the last notes of the night tossing out hundreds of guitar picks to people in the pit. Catch them on tour this year in a stadium near youuuwahhh, cause not many things in this world can beat a Metallica face-melt.
Setlist: “Hardwired”, “Atlas, Rise!”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Fuel”, “The Unforgiven”, “Now That We’re Dead”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Wherever I May Roam”, “Halo on Fire”, “Hit The Lights”, “Sad But True”, “One”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Fade to Black”, “Seek & Destroy”
“Battery”, “Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”