We all knew, right? 30 years.
Me, you, and (of course) them...
So what better a way to honor Cliff than to go back to the front and play an old school club/small theater like New York City’s Webster Hall in front of a fan club audience (with some old friends too) and deliver an old school basher, a thrasher, a teeth gnasher, and a huge fat aural baseball bat reminder of what Metallica does. Not that the show date was planned as such, no no, but the serendipity of its timing could not have been better.
What, you wonder, was this exclusive (apparently very exclusive if some of the ticket scalp tweets I saw were accurate) gig really like? Was it really worth it? Was it really all that?
Yeah. Yeah it was. You see, the whole night was like a ginormous, positive time-warp, as if the entire jam-packed, heaving throng of sweaty Webster Hall-ites all stepped into a giant Tardis and found themselves thrust back a couple of decades to a time when people lost their collective shit and bands played loud. This was another loud one, another ear-wax blender, yet the definition in this relentless assault was excellent, Big Mick wrangling the 1,500 capacity room’s corners with ease.
But the story here is of sweat and speed harmonizing to help augment the feeling that we were in our 20s again. If Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival set had been a somewhat controlled, professional, and perhaps even restrained exercise, this was unbridled, full-scale Metalligression, the venue and its hungry inhabitants having as much to do with it as you might expect.
The band blasted through the set at a ferocious pace, the riffs hanging in the pocket yet delivered with some extra pep and juice. Smaller venues become electricity conductors, and there’s no doubt that’s exactly what happened tonight, the exchange between fans and band unimpeded by a vast space. Was it Fillmore-esque? I’d say this was a touch more "aggro," a bit more East Coast-fueled "fuck you," the intent of the night laid down by the pacey opening trio of “Breadfan”(which has been played live 307 times but not too fucking many of those as a set opener in the last 15-20 to my recollection), “Holier Than Thou,” and “Battery”…how great to hear “Holier…” tucked neatly in between those ragers!
“Moth Into Flame” sounded like a firm live favorite and not a debutant, the riffing reminiscent of classic …Black Album-era fused with the snappiest parts of …Justice, the switch-backs so right, and “Orion” was…was…emotional. A word about Rob Trujillo, who majestically did what he has powerfully done for 13 years in Metallica (since 2003). It can’t have been easy tonight, but he didn’t just do Cliff’s legacy proud, he reinforced his own very vital, very fluid stamp on this band’s name and legacy. Tonight, he simply did what he does best and brought it all and then some in spades.
The people I ran into afterwards waxed lyrical about how this was a special show, how it felt so good to see and feel Metallica like that in a small place again, but I’d get used to it, because I believe this band is (deep down) out to prove what they might perceive as "doubters" wrong. That, I must make clear, is my opinion, and perhaps sometimes those doubters have been them! Whatever the reason, there is certainly a sense that they are "on a mission." There is also the blindingly obvious reality that these guys are currently rather enjoying themselves and their music, that they know the Hardwired... songs are quite simply more fun to play than anything they’ve written in some time.
“Master…,” “Bellz…,” “One,” and then a floor quivering “…Sandman” (all with varying degrees of a proper "pit" on the floor) further added to the reality that this Webster Hall set was calibrated for maximum old skool thuggery. Tonight was not an exercise in experimentation or a lavish display of the high-tech production values their stadium shows offer. This was a sweaty reaffirmation of the core founding principles which saw Metallica conquer the metal world, and it was a deafening, resounding success.