Live Reviews

Metallica – live

HIM, Machine Head, Mastodon
Wembley Stadium


It may have taken some half a decade to complete, but stepping down onto the pitch of Wembley Stadium this afternoon is an experience worth waiting for. Consisting of some 90,000 seats, it’s officially the second biggest stadium on the continent, trailing only behind Barcelona’s fabulous Nou Camp.

But where it’s behind in the capacity stakes, today’s venue is the most expensive ever built, costing a whopping £800million. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of almost 10 Millennium Stadium’s, or nearly double the amount spent each year to keep John Prescott’s appetite under control. Ultimately, it’s a venue that only one heavy metal band could successfully fill.

The crowd may be littered with shirts that suggest 90% of those in attendance are here for the headliners only, but today’s supporting line-up is one of sheer quality, kicking off with Crossfire favourites Mastodon. Such a grand arena was always going to play havoc with their hard hitting and technically complex metal, but they slam through a whirlwind set culled mostly from their ‘Blood Mountain’ opus with aplomb. The sea of devil horns that greets the classic ‘March Of The Fireants‘ and the cluster of inflatable guitars waving furiously at their set’s end suggest their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

A gargantuan roar fills the air at the mere sight of Machine Head’s banner being raised slowly into view. It’s a reaction that the band are no strangers to on UK shores, as anyone who witnessed their set at this year’s Download Festival will likely confirm. Added as a last-minute replacement for Bullet For My Valentine, today is undoubtedly theirs as they whip up circle pits as big as the gaping D-barrier at the front of the crowd.

Starting a half hour slot with the 10-minute behemoth ‘Clenching The Fists Of Descent‘ not only shows the confidence the band have in their recently released masterpiece ‘The Blackening’, but also the genuine quality of its content. Closing with their definitive anthem ‘Davidian‘ – a song that sees all hell break loose – Machine Head came, saw, and fucking conquered.

As if following such a terrifying spectacle wasn’t going to be difficult enough, the sea of middle fingers that greets HIM‘s backdrop suggests that the Finnish rockers will have their work cut out this evening. That the majority of the crowd is more interested in a series of Mexican waves engulfing the stadium’s upper reaches, allowing the band to sneak onstage and begin their set practically unnoticed, confirms the fact that practically nobody is happy to see them here.

Given the renowned, often ruthless nature of Metallica fans, today was always going to be an uphill battle for the quintet, but to their credit they soldier on with barely a word between songs. Choosing to fill their set with newer, heavier cuts from their forthcoming ‘Venus Doom’ album was always going to be the safest plan of attack, though as they bid us farewell with a cover of lovey-dovey super hit ‘I Wanna Fall In Love‘, it’s hard to begrudge the band the last, and probably only laugh.

It’s almost too easy to take a shot at Metallica these days, particularly for older “fans“, most of whom still coughed up £40 for a ticket to today’s event. So what if ‘St. Anger’ was a steaming pile of shit, and so what if ‘Load‘ and ‘Reload‘ were half-baked hard rock albums that possessed very little merit or genuinely decent material? We already know this, and so do the band. The fact that they’ll only play two songs from the last fifteen years during tonight’s mammoth 2-and-a-half hour set is proof. But one thing that no one – NO ONE – can take away from Metallica is the fact that they are still the undisputed kings of heavy metal.

They can still pull in crowds bigger than most other bands could even begin to dream of. They can still put on a stage show that would have almost any other performer in the world drooling over. And when all is said and done, they can still rock like absolute motherfuckers. Blasting through an opening salvo of ‘Creeping Death‘ and ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls‘, Metallica prove within minutes that while they may be a little older, a little greyer, and that this monumental venue has been transformed beyond all recognition, the magic of their songs and the truly special atmosphere of Wembley are still very much alive.

There’s absolutely no fucking around, and not a single sigh of disappointment will be breathed, because this is truly a once in a lifetime event. Whether it’s the classic thrash of ‘Master Of Puppets‘, the spectacular pyrotechnics of ‘One’, the 70,000 strong sing-along to ‘Nothing Else Matters‘, the snarling stomp of ‘Sad But True‘ or the quarter-century old ‘Seek & Destroy’, each chapter of their glorious, untouchable history is relived in a way that’s literally impossible to slate. “Metal is still very much alive, Wembley, and you guys are the living proof” beams the walking, talking icon that is James Hetfield, his eyes gleaming with genuine amazement.

He’s not wrong, but it was ultimately the spectacle that lay before each and every punter present that confirmed such facts. They may not pump out quality albums the way they once did, but the sheer strength of their catalogue, coupled with their frank realisation that their best songs lay in the past, are still enough to enforce the fact that Metallica are, quite simply, the daddies.

Ryan Bird.