John Steven reviews Metallica at the Genting Arena, Birmingham
Metal icons Metallica brought their UK tour to close at the Genting Arena in Birmingham on Monday with an ear ringing two-hour metal spectacular featuring some of the biggest hits from across their career.
The band, in UK for a run of sold out shows, arrived in Birmingham on the back of setting attendance records in London and Glasgow and fans from across the Midlands were whipped into a frenzy as the Metallica train rolled into the second city.
Formed in San Francisco in 1981, the metal four piece consisting of singer and guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Rob Trujillo are currently promoting their 2016 platinum selling album Hardwired...To Self Destruct.
As Metallica took to the stage, positioned in the centre of the arena floor, fans surrounding all corners of the sold-out arena, were punching the air as the intro music from the movie soundtrack The Good, The Bad & The Ugly played over the PA.
This gave way into set opener Hardwired which was followed by Atlas, Rise - both from their latest album.
Huge LED cubes positioned overhead dropped to varying positions above the band's heads displaying an ever-changing array of images during the night, visually spectacular for those sitting further back around the arena’s edges.
With the stage in the middle of the arena, the drum rise also rotated at regular intervals so fans could see Ulrich face-on, while eight microphones ensured each member could play to every angle.
This really is a band at the height of stage technology, as was further exemplified when 50 computer controlled drones were deployed to light the stage during Moth Into Flame.
Knowing that many fans travel to multiple shows, Metallica have been making small changes to their set list each night, with some unique elements thrown into their Genting gig.
The Birmingham rarity came early when they played The Shortest Straw, taken from the 1988 album …And Justice For All.
Crowd interaction is key to Metallica gigs with Hammett and Trujillo taking time to entertain the fans with a solo section, a nod to Birmingham metal legends Black Sabbath covering War Pigs, allowing the fans to sing in full support.
Another Midlands link came in the form of Am I Evil, a cover of the 1970s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band Diamond Head, credited by Hetfield and Ulrich as the reason Metallica exist today.
New songs featured heavily during Metallica’s set, but this was also a show full of career highlights from their 10 album back catalogue.
Addressing the crowd ahead of Sad But Ture, Hetfield said: “Do you want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy” before launching into the track from their 16-times platinum 1991 album.
As the intensity continued to rise inside, everyone was on their feet and as Metallica played Fuel pyrotechnics filled the stage with flames as heat rippling out across the area.
During One, the band encountered a rare technical fault with a complete system shut down.
Fans cheered and applauded as Metallica struggled to understand what had happened with all audio, lights and screens suddenly left without power.
Thankfully, this was short lived and after a few minutes of delay, Metallica resumed from the exact bar at which the failure had occurred - a minor blip on a flawless performance.
After 36 years together, Metallica are a band that still appeal to the masses with a crowed packed with young and old.
This mix of ages was evident when Hetfield asked fans to “Put your hand up if this is your first Metallica show tonight”, only to be followed with “and how many of you have seen Metallica one, 10 or 100 times before” – an indication of just how dedicated fans are willing to follow the band on tour.
Having left the stage to rapturous cheers following Master Of Puppets, fans knew they would return for an encore and they didn’t disappoint.
Spit Out The Bone, the closing track from Hardwired which features arguably the band’s fastest riffs since their debut, blasted fans back into life while Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman brought night to a close.
It’s been seven years since Metallica’s last arena tour and the band are still right the top of their game sonically and visually.
On the evidence of last night, there’s little doubt Metallica will be exciting fans back on these shores for many years to come.
Seek & Destroy
The Shortest Straw
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Now That We're Dead
Dream No More
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Halo on Fire
Am I Evil?
Moth Into Flame
Sad but True
Master of Puppets
Spit Out the Bone
Nothing Else Matters
* The show took place on Monday October 30. Visit www.metallica.com/tour for future dates.