by Phil Kehres
“This song is about you, and it’s about Metallica,” bellowed James Hetfield before launching into the anthemic “Broken, Beat & Scarred.” It’s a simple but powerful song about anyone who has ever struggled through difficult times. God knows, Hetfield and Metallica have been through theirs. As the audience chanted in unison with Hetfield to the song’s booming imperative, “show your scars,” the air of catharsis was palpable.
“We die hard!” the song continued.
It was clear Metallica isn’t back. They never left.
Through the course of a recent night in Washington, D.C. (Jan. 15 at the Verizon Center), The Mighty Met flowed seamlessly from Death Magnetic’s “The End of the Line” to Kill ‘Em All’s “The Four Horsemen” and played for a solid two hours without a break before a three-song encore. And when it seemed like they couldn’t possibly top the power of “The Day That Never Comes,” Hetfield rose from his knees slowly and smashed into the opening chords of “Master of Puppets,” the first part of a brutal two-front aural assault that featured “Battery” at the back end.
The setlist was heavy on material from Death Magnetic — six out of the ten total tracks from the album were played, and each one of them went over better than the previous one. It was obvious the boys took great pride in playing the new album; this was a stark contrast to the St. Anger era tours. Getting through St. Anger always seemed like a chore, an obligation, and that material was noticeably absent from the set. Also M.I.A. was material from the mid-‘90’s albums Load and Reload. It was clearly an attempt to prove they could still rock the old stuff, but the show didn’t suffer a bit because of it.
Hetfield's guitar was as crisp and devastating as ever, and Kirk Hammet’s notoriously sloppy soloing was unusually tight. Rob Trujillo’s thundering low-end bass and Lars Ulrich’s righteous double-bass drums drove the signature groove that sets Metallica apart from the overblown metal acts that have tried so hard to follow in their footsteps (i.e. the opening act, Machinehead). Interaction with the crowd was brief but heartfelt. Despite the perception of Metallica as a group of miserly sell-outs, it is rare to see a band express such sincere appreciation of their fans. The boys called up the house lights and turned the focus to the raucous crowd for a revelatory rendition of “Seek and Destroy” to finish the show. Black beach balls emblazoned with the iconic “MetallicA” logo rained from the ceiling as the veterans revived their thrash glory days. On the night of the announcement of their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the middle-aged foursome played with the youthful vigor and attitude that helped them invent metal as we’d never known it and never will again.
As the last strains of “The Ecstasy of Gold” faded to start the show, a slow, thunderous heartbeat echoed through the Verizon Center. The ominous sound introduced Death Magnetic’s lead track “That Was Just Your Life,” but it just as well could have been coming from my chest. Two and a half hours later, that sound still echoed. Louder, faster, and harder than ever.
(For a complementary full review of Death Magnetic, please go here.)
(The graphic of Metallica's James Hetfield is by sreichenbach via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. Metallica's world tour continues tonight, Jan. 17 with a show at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center. To see a video for Metallica's "The Day that Never Comes" from Death Magnetic, please check below.)
Death Magnetic tour
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by Phil Kehres