There are a few things you expect when seeing Metallica live. It’ll be loud, there will be face-melting, virtuosic guitar solos aplenty and you will more than likely be surrounded by a crowd cladded in various metal t-shirts.
All of these things were apparent at Tuesday’s monumental show at London’s O2 Arena, two days after setting the venue’s capacity record (in part thanks to a stage set that saw them perform in the middle of the venue). A 36-year career at the top of hard rock music’s A-list clearly hasn’t taken its toll on the Californian veteran rockers (and Clash cover stars) who came to London just as menacing a live force as they were in the mid-80s off the back of another endless world tour.
It says a lot about a band who whenever appear in danger of veering into the realm of over-indulgence are able to drop the sledgehammer riff that opens 1984’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ or the darkly melancholic anthem that is ‘One’. But there were moments where the newer material seemed to drag, struggling to strike that same chord as the pure adrenaline-inducing thrash frenzy of their early output. The kind that got the mosh pits flaring.
In particular, one section that saw the entire band resemble some sort of makeshift drum troupe led by Ulrich on ‘Now That We’re Dead’ was quite a baffling experience and felt like the mark of a band trying to shake up their modus operandi, but instead came of more in a style reminiscent of Imagine Dragons than a band revered as the titans of thrash.
Whilst all the big ones to expected were all there, of course they were, Metallica are seasoned professionals when it comes to giving the audience what they want. But with seven tracks lifted from last year’s ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’, it was in every sense more a show targeted at the Metallica purist than a greatest hits parade.
But thrash is what Metallica do best and when executed with such precision on the gargantuan ‘Master Of Puppets’ and anthemic ‘Seek And Destroy’ did make for an exhilarating live experience.
As arguably the biggest rock band in the world, playing arenas is somewhat second nature to the band these days. A well-oiled metal machine stomping the same ground every night, Hetfield’s inter-song chatter was at times tediously cheesy. But what such routine may detract in audience interplay, it was made up for in the band’s astoundingly tightly-knitted sound, which when performed at the band’s trademark high-speed is a joy to watch. Like a Ford Mustang haring through the dessert at full throttle.
It may not have been the hardest Metallica have had to work for a show, preaching to an army of the already converted, but boy can they put on a show. That infamous five note riff of ‘Enter Sandman’ is still just as spine-tingling.
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Words: Rory Marcham
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