“Up here after 36 years and still kicking ass,” is how singer and guitarist James Hetfield described Metallica’s 2017 iteration, touringtheir tenth album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, although a stage show worthy of U2 might have been part of the attraction for a crowd of thousands rammed into every tier of the Hydro.
For a band which pioneered thrash metal, Metallica do a very good impersonation of a heritage rock act, albeit with a more muscular, jaw-rattling rhythmic accompaniment from Robert Trujillo on bass and the ever-animated Lars Ulrich on a drum kit in the centre of the hall.
Unusually for an arena gig, the group weren’t projected on ceiling-height video screens set against a far wall. Instead, the quartet played in the round, as they’ve taken to doing in recent years, with an almost continuous bright light bathing the stage, giving everyone a clear view of them as they paced between the mics on all four sides of the stage.
Above them, the special effects flourish was a sequence of almost 40 cubed video screens which provided lighting effects, snippets of disjointed stage footage, and at one point during Welcome Home (Sanitarium), the eerie sight of people encased with them. “All those people in the cubes?” growled Hetfield. “Contest winners. Bad contest winners.”
They played out an odd, Stomp-style piece of thunderous, four-part stick drumming during now That We’re Dead; dedicated For Whom the Bell Tolls to “those who serve” (the video fragments showed a female soldier patrolling a dusty desert) and Moth Into Flame to Amy Winehouse; and offered up fan favourites Master of Puppets, Nothing Else Matters and the closing Enter Sandman. “After all this time it’s a real joy to see females at Metallica gigs, and also right up the front,” Hetfield noted, before saluting a ten-year-old boy in the front row.
They’re that kind of inter-generational band now; not the sort you frighten your parents with at high volume.