The rock gods have not been played a public show since December 2021
Seventy thousand metalheads rejoiced on Friday night (Feb 26th) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas as Metallica took the stage for their first concert of 2022.
The iconic foursome opened with “Whiplash” and “Ride the Lightning.” It didn’t let up from there. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet, and Robert Trujillo were aided by a six story three dimensional video wall that projected images and symbolism related to each song’s layered meaning.
This show at Allegiant was the band’s first public outing since their doubleheader 40th anniversary shows in December 2021. Hetfield acknowledged the absence from the spotlight, when he told the crowd, “It feels great to get to do this again. This is what the four of us were made to do.”
Hetfield’s earnestness and wry wit were on display in the rare moments he spoke to the crowd. Legendary drummer Ulrich, meanwhile, loved to ham up the ending to every song with some aggressive cymbal crashing that egged the crowd on.
Rare is the band that can fill an empty stage by themselves. No props. Just a few amps and the occasional pyrotechnic. Hetfield’s trademark black-and-red Shure Super 55 microphones were scattered about the stage from end-to-end. The band played an end-stage setup instead of their usual mid-venue in-the-round design. This allowed for more Vegas-appropriate spectacle and increased pyro — a rarity for an indoor concert these days.
Not just music, each Metallica song is an event. No where was this more true than on “One” where footage of the wars of the 20th Century preceded the number. During “Masters of Puppets,” crosses scanned the screen — a reference to the song’s struggle with fate versus free will.
The setlist for the Vegas show — the group’s first at the newly-opened stadium — was a perfect display of their catalog. Power ballads “Nothing Else Matters” and the aforementioned “One” (Yes I consider it a ballad. Do not argue with me) perfectly balanced thrashers “Fuel” and “Creeping Death.” The set ended with a fireworks-laden “Enter Sandman.”
Greta Van Fleet opened the show. The three Kiszka brothers Josh (lead vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam (bass, keyboard) are all still in their 20s. But they have caused quite a splash in music with their retro-inspired stagewear and authentically classic rock sound. Lead singer Josh looks like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Weird Al, and I swear I meant that as a compliment.
However, it was hard to hear Grammy winners as their sound appeared to be mixed in a more echoey fashion that turned the beautifully unique vocals of the 25-year-old lead singer into mushy screeching. Here’s hoping the next time they play Allegiant — possibly with their names on the top of the bill — the sound mix will be much more suited to their style of playing.
Back to the headliners. The men of Metallica are legends for a reason. They brought metal to the mainstream and have maintained a loyal audience. The dudes and their fans may have some salt and pepper hair, Hetfield may be sporting a few road-earned wrinkles. But the moment the music hits, the heads bang, the arms get thrown, and time stops. Take that, Sandman.
This week the band announced their only two summer stadium shows for the US will be in Buffalo and Pittsburgh in August. They have appearances line up for BottleRock and Boston Calling, along with a European trek this spring and summer.
Editor’s Note: Metallica’s concert at Allegiant Stadium is part of a double headliner weekend at the venue. We were on hand for Billy Joel the following night.
The Ecstasy of Gold
2. Ride the Lightning
3. The Memory Remains
4. Seek & Destroy
7. Escape Jam/Sad But True
8. Moth Into Flame
9. Wherever I May Roam
10. For Whom the Bell Tolls
11. Creeping Death
12. Fade to Black
13. Master of Puppets
15. Nothing Else Matters
16. Enter Sandman