Last night the Metallica juggernaut rolled into Manchester as part of their latest world tour. Straight from the off it was clear that they were going to be sticking to the tried and tested formula of playing songs from the new album interspersed with old favourites, and slowly building up to the big hits everyone came to see.
The opening track was Hardwired, from the new album Hardwired….To Self-Destruct. It was met with raucous applause and cheering as would be expected from a stadium packed with Metallica fans. It also didn’t hurt that the Metallica management had the foresight to send out digital copies of the new album to people who bought tickets online, making it a lot easier for the crowds to sing along and adding somewhat to the atmosphere. However I must say that it was also clear from the off, that the sound quality was low. I understand that it is difficult making great sound quality in a concert filled with what must have been at least 50,000 plus people, but others have tried and done a better job in my opinion. The bass and kick drum was chest thumping but the high end was sadly lacking and in a thrash metal guitar environment it was a little disappointing. However, no expense had been spared on the giant screen and the video work which accompanied the evening’s collection of songs.
Of the big hits, up next was Disposable Heroes, executed flawlessly with James Hetfield’s Thor like thunderous voice screaming out.
Throughout the evening there were a lot of references to being in Manchester and how much they enjoyed being here and to be fair I thought they sounded genuine. Some bands seem to have a “we love you (insert name of town here)” attitude just because it is the done thing. However, video footage and tales of when they played the Apollo in 1986 led me to feel that they appreciated the fans, and the support they have given throughout the years.
The evening took a surprising turn after the band played (Welcome Home) Sanatorium, when instead of just having a ten minute break, which would have been well deserved, we were treated to a rendition of the Stone Roses track, I Wanna Be Adored. Rob (bassist) and Kirk (Guitars) led an attempt to get the crowd going by playing this Manchester classic, but with drizzling rain and no real singer to lead it I felt it fell flat. A brave attempt but for my money they should have just let the crowd get another beer.
The second half of the show opened with Orion and then a cascade of the big hits, and by the time we came to one of my personal favourites Master of Puppets, the band were given a true Manchester welcome when the heavens opened up and the band were soaked. To be fair, where lesser bands would let the energy drop, the band kept a smile on their faces and rocked on. Lead singer James’s comment on the poor weather was that it was ‘Just water’ and he was clearly unperturbed.
As the evening grew darker the £95 price tag became even more acceptable as the amazing screen show and lighting was accompanied by flames, smoke, lasers, fireworks, inflatables and even a large beach ball. No expense was spared in the show and it was very much apparent.
One change I was personally unhappy with was that the band made their last ‘pre encore song’ Seek and Destroy, which in days of old used to close the show on an amazing high. However, the pressure to end the show, with what clearly is their most popular song, Enter Sandman, has clearly got to them and this closed things up along with the accompanying fireworks display.
My issues with the show were that the sound could have been better, the weather was poor and the Stone Roses rendition was a bit uncomfortable, but I would hate anyone to be left with the impression I did not love it, because I did. The show as a whole was really well constructed and I was massively impressed that the giant screen not only captured and replayed the concert, it was showing footage relevant to the songs, which was really well thought out and at times very poignant. The highlight of this was footage during the afore mentioned track Sanatorium, where the screen had footage of people trapped in opaque cages, who wanted out, but it was clear that it was also metaphorical of the struggles in people’s minds. I love that kind of stuff.
I took my mate Philip to this show as my measuring stick, as he has never heard a Metallica song in his life and I did not know if my love for the music of the band would sway my opinion of this show, but he also loved it and said it was one of the best shows he had ever been to. I think that as a band, that’s what they want to give and it is what they delivered. This band has been around since 1981 but they have a lot left to offer in my opinion and anyone who gets the chance should catch this tour.