No, that wasn’t an earthquake shaking downtown Albany last night. It was the sonic assault of the one-time reigning metal gods reclaiming their divinity. Metallica’s 2-hour show at the Times Union Center re-solidified their status as heavy metal heroes, drawing on a wide variety of songs to please both the old hardcore fans and the newer ones alike.
The darkened stage blazed into a net of laser beams as the first notes of “This Was Just Your Life,” the opening track to their newest album Death Magnetic, blasted out of the speakers. Singer/guitarist James Hetfield was barley illuminated as he belted out the lyrics, while drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo danced in shadows around the open stage. Upon the final notes of the 7-minute song, all the stage lights burst to life, finally giving the crowd a good look at the veteran rockers. To say the crowd greeted them enthusiastically would be quite understated. Hetfield whipped the fans into a frenzy between songs, spouting rhetoric about everyone being a part of the Metallica family, blah blah blah…but the audience ate it up.
Following another new song “End of the Line,” long-time fans of the old Metallica got an unbelievable treat – “Ride the Lightning,” the title track of their second album. And Metallica cranked it out like they just recorded it yesterday rather than 25 years ago (and they probably hadn’t played it live in 20 years at least).
The preamble to “One” featured a monstrous pyrotechnic display as nearly the whole stage erupted in flames, echoing the sounds of war that precede the song. In my opinion, “One” is about as perfect as a metal song can be, from the beautiful, haunting opening melodies, to the eerie, descriptive lyrics that take us inside the mind of a quadruple amputee who also loses his sight, speech and hearing and is waiting to die, to the final few minutes of machine-gun riffs and wailing guitar solos. And they played it perfectly.
They played a good number of songs from Death Magnetic, the other highlights being “All Nightmare Long” and “The Day that Never Comes,” both showcasing the band’s return to a much more thrash-metal sound.
Another fantastic surprise for the old fans was “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” a fantastic blend of beautiful melodies and hardcore metal.
As the set began heading to the finish line, they broke out two of their best – the title track to “Master of Puppets,” for which Hetfield was more than happy to let the audience sing most of the lyrics, and then, taking me and probably everyone by ecstatic surprise, “Battery.” This is one of the fastest songs they’ve ever recorded, and they played it like they were still in their 20’s instead of pushing 50. It was astounding…my neck hurts from head-banging.
They closed the set with the overplayed but crowd-pleasing “Enter Sandman,” complete with fireballs and audience sing-a-longs.
They left the stage for a few minutes and came right back with three more oldies: their cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy,” and then two tracks from their first album Kill ‘Em All – “Motorbreath” and “Seek and Destroy,” and during the latter giant Metallica beach balls rained down from the ceiling and bounced around the crowd. It was a fitting end to a crazy, fun show that, as I alluded to in my previous post, brought all Metallica fans together. Hmm, maybe that clap-trap about the “Metallica family” has some merit?
(See the full set list here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/metallica/2009/times-union-center-albany-ny-63d73a87.html)
Prior to Metallica, Virginia’s Lamb of God played for almost an hour, shoving their pounding death/thrash metal down everyone’s throats. Lamb of God is arguably the best metal band to arrive on the scene in the last decade. Their riffs are incredibly tight, and singer Randy Blythe’s demonic snarling vocals are a great fit. I saw them open for Slayer about 3 years ago and they nearly upstaged the speed-metal icons. Last night they probably recruited a lot of new fans who hadn’t heard them, but they probably also turned off a good chunk of the crowd. Metallica fans have a diverse fan base, and those who really like more radio-friendly metal probably found Lamb of God a little too intense. But they played well and Blythe interacted a lot with the crowd. Unfortunately the vocal mix was not loud enough, making it hard to hear the lyrics.
Opening band Volbeat was pretty good. Their sound was kind of rockabilly-meets-punk, with a little thrash thrown in. They were very entertaining, and the sparse crowd seemed to enjoy it.
This Metallica concert gets 4 out of 5 stars!