As the final pyro flashpot had erupted in flames on Friday night, and the Golden 1 Center stage was finally silent of guitar riffage, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich surveyed the sold-out crowd and turned reflective.
He rattled off the names of Sacramento venues that Metallica had rocked over its 37 years as a band: the Memorial Auditorium, Arco Arena, Cal Expo, a Tower Records parking lot.
Sacramento certainly has a soft spot for these heavy metal superstars, from its days on the Bay Area’s burgeoning thrash-metal scene to the titans of arena rock they are now. Metallica’s show at Golden 1 Center, a powerful 135-minute set that spanned the band’s career, showed the band isn’t slowing down or getting cushy with its veteran rocker status.
Metallica hadn’t played Sacramento in nearly a decade before Friday night, but its need for speed was evident from the start.
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The show kicked off with “Hardwired,” the opening track from its 2016 “Hardwired … to Self-Destruct” album, and the show barely relented from there. Though it’s a newer song, “Hardwired” was a hardly a buzzkill for those who wanted to hear greatest hits. Its machine gun-like riffs and thrashy tempos set a ferocious pace that such Metallica classics as “Whiplash” and “Battery” would follow later in the set.
While much of the music went for maximum velocity and heaviness, like a sludgier-than-thou take on “Sad But True,” Metallica’s stage show took a more minimalist approach. Gone were the extensive catwalks, the collapsing Lady Justice statue, and other grand pageantry from Metallica tours past. The current tour focuses primarily on the four members playing in the round, with staging that allows them to work all corners of an arena.
The main razzle-dazzle for visuals came from a series of cube shaped monitors that were raised and lowered during various parts of the show. The monitors flashed images and artifacts from Metallica’s days gone by, including a ticket stub from the band’s 1996 show at Arco Arena. The price was $27.50 – practically pennies a serving given that nosebleed seats for Friday’s show were fetching $250 on the resale market. General admission floor passes commanded hundreds more.
While the show had its reflective touches, Metallica treated its set more like a proving grounds that the band still kicks butt after all these years. Signature tunes like “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “One” and “Creeping Death” rocked triumphantly as they’re supposed to. The band members looked and sounded fresh, especially frontman James Hetfield whose voice sounded well preserved and powerful after all these years.
The show had a few loose moments, including a brief homage to Sacramento’s Deftones from Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo, who played a snippet of “Elite” from Deftones’ “White Pony” album. The Metallica members also joined forces for a drum circle of sorts during “Now That We’re Dead.”
For those who still play a mean air guitar, let’s hope it doesn’t take Metallica another nine years to play Sacramento again. If there’s any kind of metalhead in your heart, it’s still a must-see show.
- “Atlas, Rise!”
- “Seek and Destroy”
- “The Shortest Straw”
- “The Unforgiven”
- “Now That We’re Dead”
- “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
- “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
- “Elite” (brief Deftones cover from Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo)
- “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”
- “Creeping Death”
- “Moth Into Flame”
- “Sad But True”
- “Master of Puppets”
- “Nothing Else Matters”
- “Enter Sandman”