It’s always a huge occasion when the world’s biggest metal band comes out to play in your town and the Metalli-hordes are out in force for this one. Like, 50,000 of them. One of only 2 UK dates Metallica had set for this leg of the long-running Hardwired world tour the throng had come from far and wide for this monumental event at the hugely impressive home of Manchester City.
Due to the ridiculously early start time I missed Swedish garage metal starlets Bokassa and only caught the last 2 tracks from the immense Ghost. But it’s the Four Horsemen we’re all here to see though and the intro tape to ‘Hardwired’ follows ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’ bang on time, and it’s immediately clear that the huge stage backdrop with all its bells and whistles is where the majority of the budget has gone – despite the outrage from a lot of fans about ticket prices (£110 for standing ticket!). All of this is soon forgotten though as they tear through a two hour plus set containing some of metal’s biggest anthems mixed in with some newer tracks because, ya know, they still have an album to promote, right?
There are a few eyebrow raisers tonight – The Memory Remains and St Anger, despite not being classic Metallica cannon, sound amazing tonight – especially St Anger with a good snare sound. ‘Disposable Heroes’ gets a rare outing, as does ‘The God That Failed’. What constitutes a very common outing however, is the infamous Manchester weather. About halfway through the set the heavens open and drench both the band and the fans. There is no cover for the band – this is a truly open air gig with no roof over the stage but instead of conceding defeat they seem to get a renewed energy that is spewed back and forth between them and the sodden faithful – just as well, as the set had dipped slightly during Kirk and Rob’s now traditional doodle paying homage to local music scenes, opting to play The Stone Roses’ ‘I Wanna Be Adored’.
The stage effectively resembles a paddling pool with the sheer amount of water falling from the sky (the crowd hopeful nobody was to ride the lightning!), and if they were struggling to play their guitars with the amount of rain they weren’t showing it. Lars Ulrich’s kit, in particular, looking spectacular with the toms splashing with water during a monumental run through of ‘Master Of Puppets’. Quickly followed by ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Creeping Death’ it’s as if the band and crowd have become one, a singular entity all soaked to the skin. The set rounds off with a rousing rendition of ‘Seek & Destroy’ before they reappear for the encore and a surprising dusting off of ‘Lords Of Summer’ (somebody’s having a laugh at the irony of this, surely). ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is usually a ‘go-to-the-bar’ track but tonight it is simply staggering, the atmosphere enhanced by huge amounts of people in the stands waving their lighters. Oh wait, they’re mobile phones. Welcome to 2019.
‘Enter Sandman’ is the final song played tonight, and as usual it sounds so much better in a huge arena setting with tens of thousands of like minded metalheads than in your lounge. The 4th of July then comes early as the whole shebang is rounded off with a huge fireworks display, waking up half of the population of neighbouring Beswick in the process.
If anybody still doubts Metallica’s draw in this day and age, their performance tonight (and any other night, natch) will surely silence the naysayers. After nearly 40 years on the scene they can still command adulation from generations of adoring fans and not only that, but they’re completely at the top of their game and seem genuinely to be enjoying every moment of it all to boot. Suddenly, £110 seems a bargain…
WORDS : Neil ‘Not’ Coggins PHOTOGRAPHY : Dave Ingham
Catch Neil’s shows on HRH Radio – Full Metal Racket (5pm Sundays) and The C60 Mixtape Show (12pm Tuesdays)