It had been five long years since I had witnessed American heavy metal band Metallic on stage.
Actually, it was nearly five years to the day, since the last time they were in Vancouver was August of 2012 – (Review of Metallica at Rogers Arena on August 24th, 2012).
This time around the thrash metal pioneers are touring behind their latest album, 2016’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, on an outing dubbed ‘WorldWired’.
Monday at four o’clock, the festivities began, for me.
I walked up to the stadium to check things out.
A sea of black t-shirts and battle jackets surrounded the venue.
After some purchases at the merch table and the almost-food bar, it was time to claim my real estate and take in some music.
This French heavy metal outfit has been devastating the airwaves for the better part of thirty years. The four-piece took the stage as the audience slowly trickled in and started things off with “Only Pain” from their 2016 release Magma. I was a bit worried that their sound wouldn’t work in such a large space but they put that to rest quite quickly. The power from their guitars was well balanced with Joe Duplantier’s vocals. Nothing was washed out, it all sounded quite clean. You could feel the energy of each note pummel you in the chest and it stirred the mob on the floor to pump their fists and rock their heads. A great way to start things off.
Toxic Garbage Island
The Shooting Star
After seven long years, this Huntington Beach metal faction had finally made its way back to Vancouver. Singer M. Shadows was in good form as he sprung around that giant stage. I was again caught off guard by how clean the audio was. The vocals were crisp and the guitar mix was rich. The band was having fun out there. Jokingly showboating for the crowd to get some laughs and giving themselves joyous smiles in the process. After the first few songs, large flashes of fireballs shot up from behind the band. The immediate release of heat could be felt from every point in the stadium, which resulted in a well-timed “whoa” to be uttered by the massive mob in attendance. The highlight of the set was “Hail To The King”, off of the 2013 eponymous album. It was the first big sing along of the night, those lyrics ringing through the air – “Kneel to the crown, stand in the sun, Hail to the King”.
Hail to the King
The venue was nearly at capacity by the time the masters of metal stormed the stage. First was Lars Ulrich, he sauntered up to his drum kit with his backwards ball cap and took his position. The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind; lead vocalist James Hetfield (aka Papa Het) at center, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett to the right, and bassist Robert Trujillo to the left. With each one at their post, they rushed into the set, starting the night off with “Hardwired”. The coliseum erupted with the thunderous roars of the eager.
I made a conscious effort to observe each musician.
Hetfield rightly deserves his pseudonym of Papa Het as he is the father of the Metallica family. His strong energy and sturdiness is a guide that dictates the movements of the others. He keeps things serious enough but also ensures everyone is having a great time. There is still plenty of power and range in his vocals. He was rarely if ever, drowned out by the chanting and singing of the audience.
Hammett is a virtuoso on the guitar. He makes every movement look so purposeful but utterly effortless. His fingers pass along the fretboard with ease and his facial expressions seem like they are steering wheel controlling it all. Of the three guitarists, his instruments were the most intriguing. Specifically the intricate airbrush detail on his ESP KH-2 ‘Karloff The Mummy’, which showcases a graphic of the face of Boris Karloff as The Mummy over the pickups. With beautiful axe in hand, he strutted around the stage and added the exclamation mark to a good number of the songs.
Trujillo brings explosive energy. He works around the stage like an animal ready to pounce, keeping his body low like he could strike at any moment. He hangs his bass low as well, keeping it just inches off the ground at times. Much like Hammett, Roberts expressions seem to will the music from his instrument. On this night, his hair was in these giant braids and he flung them around as he rocked his head to the rhythm. Wherever he stood, he further stirred the crowd around him. His energy is completely contagious and he seemed to get just as much joy from the fans as he did from performing.
Ulrich is a maniac. From the endless bevy of contorted faces he makes to the chaotic way he can just stand up at his drum kit and use gravity to further add power to each grunting rap of his drumstick, he is chaos personified. I watched in awe as he arms rained down in a near blur then he would randomly stand, walk outside the drum kit and work the cymbals from the outside. I don’t think I have ever seen another drummer that does that. He, much like, Hetfield, always looks like he is having a great time; smiles are in abundance.
The stage was backed by an eighty foot, approximately, tall video screen which added a customized visual journey to each song.
Throughout the set, we were treated to fire balls, walls of flames, fireworks, stage smoke, and all the other goodies you need to accompany a metal show of this size. Whatever they were using to manage the smoke did a wonderful job. At no time during the set did it feel stuffy or over run by “bad air”. It might seem like a weird thing to notice and maybe even a weirder thing to report on but I give credit to wherever it is due and the air quality management was handled impeccably. Because of this the view to the stage was clear at nearly every moment.
This was my third Metallica show. I first saw them back on the ‘Death Magnetic’ tour in 2008 and then again when they filmed ‘Through The Never‘ in 2012. They keep growing their tours and making them better. They keep pushing the envelope and trying new things. Metallica has been one of those bands that have tried many things. They have been able to reinvent themselves and they have even been able to turn back the dial on their own sound to return to something they were earlier on.
Seeing one of their shows is a life event. It is a mark in the path of your life that you won’t soon forget.
The only thing that one might consider to be missing from their live shows is a greater change over in their setlists. In order to run a smooth ship, they keep a static setlist with wild card slots allowing them to only adjust a few songs night over night. If you talk to most avid fans, they want to hear the deep cuts; “Cyanide”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Stone Cold Crazy”, and “Killing Time” to name a few. But you can’t have it all. Sometimes an ever changing setlist can cause issues. Maybe doing that would shorten tour lengths, cause shows to go less smoothly, or even reduce the length of the shows themselves. So, you take what you get and you don’t get upset.
By the end of the night, I was worn out. Metallica came, they played, and I was left drenched in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.
Each night of the tour the shows have been closed out with a personalized city-specific video, featuring content taken the day of the event.
This was the video that closed out Vancouver.
I think next go around I will try to catch them at more than one stop on the tour.
As the venue emptied, I was lucky enough to score a city-specific guitar pick.
Oh yes, one last thing. Metallica jumped on the tour-poster train this year. They made venue specific posters for every show of the tour. As an avid concert poster collector, I was stoked when I found out about this. I was even more stoked when I scored one at the show.
Avenged Sevenfold photos © Jamie Taylor//Cryptic Photography
Gojira photos © Jamie Taylor//Cryptic Photography