I now realize why Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. The San Francisco metal pioneers utterly destroyed a nearly sold out Quicken Loans Arena, playing in the round (or rectangle, really) in support of last year’s stellar Death Magnetic. For over two hours guitarist/singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo stormed around a large, bare stage, playing to all sides of the arena as lasers, lights and pyro ignited the hall. These guys might all be in their forties, but they’re a doctorate lesson in arena rock, bringing a level of energy and explosiveness that warrants the admiration and devotion of the band’s nation of fans.
Metallica opened with the first two tracks from Death Magnetic, “That Was Your Life” and “The End of the Line,” with Ulrich in the middle of the stage on a rotating drum riser while the three other band members ran around the rectangular stage, continually entertaining the entire arena. The band then mixed in its greatest hits, largely ignoring its more recent albums like St. Anger and Load to play classic cuts from Master of Puppets, Metallica, and …And Justice for All. Always the consummate professional, Hetfield worked the crowd perfectly, speaking to the Cleveland audience on several occasions, asking if they’re ready to rock, surveying the crowd for Metallica first timers, and introducing songs. “Sad But True” was introduced by asking who’s ready for it heavy, to which the audience approvingly erupted.
A slight technical glitch couldn’t derail the night either — a problematic PA left half the venue without sound during “The Day that Never Comes” — but after a short stop to assess the issue, the band decided to play through the trouble. It was the right choice and kept the momentum going for the home stretch, an onslaught of “Masters of Puppets,” “Dyers Eve,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Enter Sandman.” The band then returned after a short break for an encore highlighted by a cover of the Misfit’s “Last Caress,” which Hetfield introduced as being an early inspiration to the band. The night then closed with two of the band’s oldest tracks, “Hit the Lights,” which was played appropriately played with the house lights on, and “Seek and Destroy.” It left the crowd in a sweaty frenzy, and one that will not be forgotten. — Aaron Mendelsohn