When you’re Metallica, you can get away with a lot of stuff. Things like charging £100 a ticket, as they broke The O2 arena’s attendance record not once but twice in the space of three days. But here’s the hook, anyone who saw this show would have come out of it being prepared to pay double that to see it again, there was definitely something special in the London air on this Tuesday night.
You can also get away with being twenty minutes late, because once AC/DC’s A Long Way To The Top kicks in as the standard pre-opener, no one, aside from annoying journalists like me in reviews like this, will remember how late they were. As a fourteen year long devotee of seeing Metallica live (this also being the 14th time I will have seen them in the flesh) it never ceases to amaze me the reaction that hearing The Ecstasy of Gold causes in the live setting. The hair on your arms and the back of your neck shoots up instantly; it is like no other opening possessed by any other band.
What is apparent from the word go as they launch into the title track from Hardwired…To Self Destruct is that Metallica are absolutely on fire. Hardwired is even more an assault on the senses live than on record, and as James spits the out that huge chorus of “You’re so fucked, shit outta luck”, 20,000 people are yelling it right back at him. Atlas, Rise! is equally as impressive in the flesh, before a frankly jaw dropping first burst of classics. When songs like Seek and Destroy and Leper Messiah (!!!) are being wheeled out within the first twenty five minutes, you know something truly impressive is going on. A spellbinding Fade To Black closes the first portion of things with the record crowd absolutely mesmerised. Metallica were only just getting started.
It is worth at this point mentioning the Metallica set – an extensive array of cubed video screens that were dangled above the stage that could all move independently of each other – it was much more impressive than it sounds if you’ve not seen the pictures. During Now That We’re Dead, four of them descended to the floor and we were treated to all four members of Metallica banging rhythms out on the cubes in a surreal but highly entertaining moment. Throughout the show, the screens displayed a fantastic array of visuals, both independently and working together across multiple screens, whilst never detracting from the main thing on offer – the band themselves.
Metallica – not quite Homer’s Island Rhythms, but close
Throughout the whole night, the quality from all four members of Metallica never dipped. James Hetfield’s voice is arguably in it’s best condition in well over a decade, losing none of its potency and retaining all of its charm. Kirk continues to be able to shred at will, and even Lars (often the weak link) seemed to have things well in hand – apart from numerous delays for running repairs to bits of his drumkit which James handled with typical aplomb. Special mention must go to Mr Robert Trujillo for his absolutely mindblowing rendition of the bulk of Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth) for which I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. Cliff Burton would have been very, very proud. As he would of been of renditions of classics from the Cliff era like For Whom The Bell Tolls (for which the whole arena was bouncing) and a furious Creeping Death.
During Moth Into Flame (dedicated to the late Amy Winehouse) there something of a first; Whilst the song itself was excellent and, of all the Hardwired tracks, this is the one that should go on to become a live Metallica staple for years, it was what happened above the band that was truly unique. Several dozen tiny little drones flying as tiny, lit up moths circled above the band in what was truly a “you had to see it to believe it” moment. This was even more true when one of them malfunctioned and veered off into the level one seating area, though I have it on good authority it was retrieved by security and sadly not allowed to be a once in a lifetime souvenir for a member of the audience.
The rest of the show was wall-to-wall fan favourites with one more surprise in store; After a triple threat of Sad But True, One and Master Of Puppets one after the other floored everyone in attendance, we were granted a small respite before the encore. What virtually no-one in attendance could have predicted is that that encore would start with Spit Out The Bone, the phenomenally ferocious closing track from Hardwired being given its live debut in London, and sounding every bit as good as one would hope. From there on out, the arena lit up for Nothing Else Matters, before the roof figuratively came off for the closing obligatory Enter Sandman.
For a band thirty six years into their career as we were reminded by James at a couple of points throughout the show, this was an utterly stupendous showing, demonstrating why as far as metal is concerned, as long as Metallica can produce performances like this, they will forever be the kings of the metal mountain. There just isn’t a band on the planet that comes close. We are privileged to be metal fans in their time, and judging by this, there should be life in them for many years to come yet. If you are seeing them on a later date of this tour, you are truly in for something special. 10 / 10.
The full Metallica setlist was:
The Ecstasy Of Gold (intro)
Seek & Destroy
Fade To Black
Now That We’re Dead
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Halo On Fire
Kirk / Rob duel
Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth)
Moth Into Flame
Sad But True
Master Of Puppets
Spit Out The Bone (live debut)
Nothing Else Matters