It took 31 years for Metallica to earn the right to host their own festival. On Saturday night, the first of their two-day Orion Music + More festival, they did not disappoint.
Loud, fast and sounding as good as they did three decades ago, Metallica commanded the huge Bader Field audience — fist-pumping and singing nearly every lyric — and proving why they are the most successful and best metal band to ever musically roam the planet.
“This is a dream come true,” screamed frontman James Hetfield. “Metallica gives you heavy.”
With three gigantic screens and others serving as stage dressing, Metallica used a long ramp that went into the center of the crowd, keeping things fun and spontaneous for as many people as possible.
When it came to the setlist, Metallica knew exactly what its fans wanted. Showing they don’t have amnesia when it comes to their history, Metallica opened with “Hit the Lights,” the first song lead singer/guitarist James Hetfield wrote with drummer Lars Ulrich that landed on their first album, 1983’s “Kill ’Em All,” before roaring into one of their most famous early songs, “Master of Puppets,” which had the crowd chanting “master” in that evil roar you can find only at a Metallica concert.
Five songs into the night, Metallica began playing their second album, 1984’s “Ride the Lightning,” for the first time in the band’s long history. But in typical unorthodox fashion, they played it in reverse, starting with the instrumental “The Call of Ktulu,” then playing “Creeping Death” — one of the night’s best and a true metal classic — before giving the crowd a real rare treat: “Escape,” which the band had never played to a live audience.
Hearing “Ride” in its entirety reconfirmed how Metallica’s music remains compelling, relevant and fresh nearly 30 years later. It is considered one of the best metal albums of all time, has influenced countless musicians along the way and produced songs that will never die, including the Ernest Hemingway-inspired “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and the power ballad “Fade to Black.”
But it wasn’t all about one album. Saturday was a true career retrospective.
Even though the band will play the entire “Black” album today, they oddly played the a romping version of “Sad But True” and fan favorites “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” instead of playing other songs from their deep catalog. Even though they were nicely performed, why repeat songs at a festival? It doesn’t make sense to have fans sit through the same songs two days in a row when you can give them something unique. A disappointment, to say the least.
The crowd could have also done without the mundane “To Hell and Back,” a leftover from 2008’s “Death Magnetic” that ended up on the EP “Beyond Magnetic.”
But the encores, the speedy, inspired “Battery” and the gloom-and-doom gem “Seek and Destroy,” complete with flames and fireworks, certainly made it easy to forgive and forget even though the fireworks display may have blown out some equipment as speakers cracked during “One” as a laser light show was unleashed.
Metallica may not be everyone’s favorite band, but for the tens of thousands at Bader Field on Saturday, they witnessed metal supremacy. It doesn’t get any better.
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