I see a lot of live music and there is just nothing like a Metallica show. These four guys are all in their mid 50’s and just seem to never hit a wrong note. They never seem to tire. They show up to your town and just proceed to tear the roof off of where ever they are playing that night. My only complain actually is that they didn’t need Jim Breuer to open and could have played even longer than the almost two and a half hours that they did play. When your a band of Metallica’s stature though you basically can do whatever you want and that it exactly what they did in Albany on Monday night at the Times Union Center.
Opening with “Hard Wired” off their latest record Hardwired….to Self-Destruct, which saw the most action of the evening with five songs, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo came out swinging and hit ever song out of the park. I’m sure mistakes were made, which Hetfield even joked about later in the evening, but you couldn’t hear a single one. They still play each song with the precision and dexterity of bands half their age. Also Hetfield’s voice hasn’t lost any of it’s force. That laugh that only he can conjure blared over the audience through out the evening. While he did let he audience take over on a lot of choruses during the show, he belted out the songs themselves as clear as day.
Watching him play drums, I’m pretty sure Lars is a robot. He bangs those things like there is no tomorrow and having seen them before I know he does that every night. It’s just not human. Speaking of not human Kirk’s fingers move like few others all over his guitar. The sounds he is able to create with that instrument are downright scary at times. Trujillo is the anchor of this band. The man can just drop heavy notes at any and all times. The grooves he makes at every turn let all the other members just tear loose. Most bands 35 plus years in do not sound this strong, but these four guys really outshine so many contemporaries.
This arena tour they are playing in the round. This is important for many reasons. First it puts every other concert not in the round to shame. When a band is in the middle of the crowd there are no bad seats. Right there is the main reason arena acts should try it out, even if it’s just once. Could you imagine going to a Paul McCartney show and he’s playing in the center of the arena. People would lose it. Lars rotates through the show so that each side of the arena can get a great look at him drumming. The other three are on the constant move so that no one side is favored. The speakers are turned so that the music goes out equally in the arena.
This brings me to the light show that Metallica is employing this time around. It is one of sleekest designed I’ve seen in person. In the four corners of the arena there are lights that cross the center stage and light the arena up. Over the band are these amazing video boxes that move up and down, as well as make patterns. They had words, pictures, and during “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” it looked like there were people in them trying to get out. These boxes were mesmerizing to see move about over the foursome.
During “Now That We’re Dead,” another track off their latest record, boxes came from under the stage, but it turned out they were electronic drums. Metallica each took one of the boxes for a full on band drum solo in the middle of the song. After it was over the electronic drums went back down under the stage as if nothing was ever there. For “Fuel” fire shot out of the middle of the stage around Lars up pretty high, but the heat could be felt around the arena. The coolest part of this production had to be the use of drones during “Moth Into the Flame.” The drones flew in patterns above the band, coming from under the stage and returning there and coming back out again. It was amazing to watch them dance and make patterns as the music was being pounded out below. If drones do truly become the next cool concert lighting, sign me up, because it was amazing.
The concert is still about the music though and one thing that struck me was the crowd’s reaction to every song. It didn’t matter if it was from Ride the Lightning or their latest, the crowd erupted every time and sang all the words back. That’s right for once a crowd was with the band completely when new numbers were played. I didn’t see many attendees leaving their row to go take a bathroom break during new numbers. This crowd was all in, and on their feet, for the whole show. Now this isn’t to say that the older numbers like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Master of Puppets” didn’t get bigger reactions than the newer ones, but it was refreshing to see an audience accepting everything the artist was throwing at them.
The show of course ended with “Enter Sandman” including some more pyro, because why not add in some indoor pyro to a show that was an absolute barn burner. With a heartfelt thank you and waves from each band member, the crowd roared, wanting more, despite knowing it wasn’t going to happen.This was the last East Coast show on the band’s itinerary through their schedule for next year, so if you wind up on the West Coast, in the middle of the US, or in another country and they are around, you won’t regret seeing these legends still doing what they do best.
Article: Bryan Lasky