After four decades of touring the world, writing music and playing some of the loudest and fastest music around, you’d be forgiven for looking a little tired.
And as Metallica kicked off their two-night 40th anniversary shows, they seemed exactly that. Tired. Or maybe nervous. Or maybe just not in the right mood.
In the early stages of the show the band seemed to still be warming up. The timing seemed a little off and the enthusiasm was a little lacking. Perhaps it was nerves, perhaps it was the audio mix for the live stream, but this didn’t sound like the usual Metallica gig. It felt lacking in energy.
Pleasingly, things improved in the back half as the band tightened up and James Hetfield began to appear more comfortable. He was unusually quiet early on but again, perhaps it was nerves.
After forty years would you still be nervous? Probably, especially for a milestone gig like this.
In any case, the set list followed the bands career chronologically, opening with Hit The Lights from Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All.
From there, the band played a song or two from all their studio albums, including Breadfan from the cover compilation Garage Inc. Personal set list highlights were Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Orion and The Day That Never Comes.
However, the biggest surprise in the set was from ReLoad, the previously-never-played-live album closer Fixxxer. It was a fan-friendly surprise and was a pretty damn good rendition, all things considered.
Strangely, there was no encore. By the time the band blasted out Spit Out The Bone from their most recent album Hardwired… To Self Destruct, Metallica seemed to be up and firing, primed to close the night out with a few bonus tracks. Alas, it was not to be, with the band opting for spoken thank-you’s and a torrent of picks being tossed into the crowd before they departed. To not finish off with a metal anthem like Enter Sandman or Master Of Puppets was just strange.
One wonders if the second show on the 19th might hold a few more surprises. This first show featured few surprises and no special guests. A cameo from Jason Newstead at the very least seems like an obvious omission.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad show but by Metallica’s own lofty standards (this is easily one of the best live bands on the planet we’re talking about here, and has been for decades) it was a little underwhelming. It kind of just ticked all the boxes from their back catalogue but didn’t try to do much more beside some nostalgic interludes.
I don’t level this criticism with any satisfaction because I love Metallica and I wanted this show to blow me away, but sadly it just didn’t. For a show marking such an achievement in the career of a band, I expected this to be a bigger, grander event than a regular Metallica tour show. If anything, it felt much like a shorter version of a regular Metallica gig while my heart wanted it to be Metallica on steroids.
Final judgment will be reserved until after show two (maybe as a two-part package it will impress more), but as a stand-alone gig there are better options out there than this for documented Metallica shows.