Two days of musical madness concluded as Metallica took the main Bader Field stage and more than 30,000 people waited for the most successful metal band of all time to rock their world.
Metallica obliged, but if concertgoers were there Saturday, Sunday must have felt a little like déjà vu.
The Orion Music + More Festival proved once again Atlantic City can successfully hold events of humongous magnitude. And it proved Metallica and its promoters can throw one heck of a music festival. But one thing Metallica has to learn is how to mix things up musically for the fans.
Sunday’s show started exactly the same as Saturday’s as the legendary musicians ripped into “Hit the Lights” and “Master of Puppets.” Two songs later they performed “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which they also played Saturday when they offered the “Ride the Lightning” album.
Five songs into the night, they began playing the eponymous “Black” album, where the crowd was treated to three more repeats from Saturday, “Enter Sandman,” “Sad But True” and “Nothing Else Matters.”
So surely, Metallica didn’t play any repeats in the encore, right? It sure did, playing the emotional and powerful “One” and the once-again-awesome fan favorite “Seek and Destroy” for the second straight night.
Despite the repeats, a no-no for any festival performer with such a vast catalog, Metallica retained the throne as kings of metal. And even though the band has been around for 31 years, no one is close to dethroning it.
Hearing the “Black” album in its entirety, a rare opportunity, was nice, but that novelty comes with a bit of a price. Would fans rather hear mediocre tracks such as “My Friend of Misery” and “The God That Failed” instead of hearing awesome songs such as “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)“ and “The Day That Never Comes,” which were never played either day? And shouldn’t Metallica have played “Orion”? It was the name of the festival.
That said, hearing rarely played “Black” gems such as “Of Wolf and Man,” “Through the Never” and “Don’t Tread On Me” were a nice treat, and so were the hits — including the repeats — as well as “The Unforgiven” and “Wherever I May Roam.”
The “Black” album, the band’s most successful album, was the transitional album for the group as it ventured a little away from speed metal and entered a more commercial, melodic zone. It was the album that enabled Metallica to eventually host a festival like this.
The remaining songs of the night were awesome choices, particularly the super smash “Fuel,” the old-school “Shortest Straw,” and the first encore “Blackened” — perhaps the night’s best performance backed by flamethrowers and pyro.
After two nights of Metallica, one thing really stands out: Metallica is an incredible band of musicians. Lars Ulrich remains one of rock’s finest drummers, possessing amazing energy and speed that hasn’t diminished. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos are as fast and clever as ever, and he is as good live as he is in a studio. Front man James Hetfield’s voice ranges from gruff to melodic and plays second guitar better than most lead guitarists . And Robert Trujillo, the only nonoriginal member, is a madman of a showman and equally fine bassist.
About 65,000 people came to see the greatest metal band of all time over two days. Let’s hope Metallica gives them another chance next year in the same town on the same abandoned airport.
Contact Scott Cronick