"Baltimore, are you aliiiive? Are you aliiiive?!?!" James Hetfield asked a stadium full of headbangers in Baltimore Wednesday night, echoing the sort of stage banter Bruce Springsteen made famous. Then he twisted it. "If you want to live forever, first you must diiiiie." With that, Metallica kicked into "Now That We're Dead," an ominous new quasi-love song off their latest LP, last year's Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct, that featured a super-sized drum solo involving the band's four members.
It was a larger-than-life moment from a larger-than-life band, one that has pulled out all stops for its WorldWired Tour, which it kicked off with this gig in Charm City's M&T Stadium with support from Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat. It was Metallica at their biggest: seemingly hundred-foot screens that stretch to the upper rafters of the gigantic venue, chest-rattling bass drum that approximates Lars Ulrich personally kicking you in the gut and pyro displays that include 40-foot flames that turn into fireballs and fireworks galore.
The stage even has giant balloons that display the Hardwired LP's cover. It's been nearly 20 years since the band last toured U.S. stadiums – and it's been nearly 10 since they did a proper North American run – so it seems they've spared no expense to announce their homecoming.
But despite all the bells, whistles, balloons and explosions, none of the spectacle felt bloated. This is a group that 25 years ago took the big-rock mantle left behind by Led Zeppelin and Queen years before them and shaped it in their image. It's the sort of show they were born to do, judging from the 10s of thousands of waving fists during "Sad but True."
METALLICA played its first concert in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 2009 Friday night (May 12) at Lincoln Financial Field. The two-hour show included a four-man drum jam that first made an appearance at METALLICA's Mexico City gigs in March within the new song "Now That We're Dead". During the section where drummer Lars Ulrich, from the back of the stage, played some tribal tom grooves, the other members started banging on individual sets of toms, with Ulrich coming out to join them.
"I know it's been on [frontman James] Hetfield's laundry list for some time to experiment with a drum piece," Ulrich told Newsday. "He's always been a bit of a closet drummer, so he suggested that we all somehow stitch together a drum interlude."
METALLICA's setlist for last night's show was as follows:
01. Hardwired 02. Atlas, Rise! 03. For Whom The Bell Tolls 04. Creeping Death 05. The Unforgiven 06. Now That We're Dead 07. Moth Into Flame 08. Wherever I May Roam 09. Halo On Fire 10. Motorbreath 11. Sad But True 12. One 13. Master Of Puppets 14. Fade To Black 15. Seek & Destroy 16. Battery 17. Nothing Else Matters 18. Enter Sandman
Elliott Fullam of Little Punk People conducted an interview with METALLICA frontman James Hetfield before the band's May 14 concert show at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Asked to name his favorite thrash bands that are not part of the so-called "Big Four" of 1980s thrash metal (METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX), Hetfield said: "Oh, my God! There's tons of them. Well, EXODUS for sure. We grew up with those guys in the [San Francisco] Bay Area. Oh, and we stole their guitar player; that too. [Laughs] But, yeah, I think they're great. TESTAMENT… A lot of bands in the Bay Area, a lot of thrash stuff. I just think even before that… Yeah, there's thrash… Punk rock was kind of the beginning of it for me. MOTÖRHEAD — kind of thrashy but rock and roll. But I loved G.B.H., or still do, and I love DISCHARGE a lot. That's kind of really cool thrash music to me."
METALLICA's nine-minute medley of four tracks, titled "Ronnie Rising Medley", that the group culled from the iconic metal singer's mid-Seventies band RAINBOW. The medley is featured on "This Is Your Life", the tribute to album to Ronnie James Dio, which will be released on April 1 via Rhino.
Speaking about the decision-making process in METALLICA, Ulrich said: "What we've worked out over the years is that we tend to gravitate toward who is the most passionate. So if somebody pulls in this direction and somebody pulls in that direction, who is the most passionate about the direction that they're pulling. Over the years, we put a lot more emphasis on that than winning the argument, or right or wrong, or yes or no, or this guy versus that guy. It's like we try to get to the bottom of the passion. 'I really fucking see this. I feel it. I know where this should go.' 'Fine. Then you run with it.' And we'll circle back to the next thing where we disagree or whatever. But the passion in the moment and the vision, the amount of that often is what will lead the way rather than right or wrong."
Asked how he and his METALLICA bandmates stay motivated and inspired after all these years, Ulrich said: "I think for METALLICA, the main thing is just continuously mixing it up. So we always have to do different things. We all acknowledge in the band that we all have very short attention spans and we get easily a little lost. And so, if we know that about ourselves, then we always just do different things. So, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, or whatever, there were things in music where it was, basically, you made a record, you went on tour, you made a record, you went on tour. It was this cycle that was very limited and very predictable. And with the collapse of the general music industry a decade or so ago, it felt like you could break out of all that. And so we made a couple, two-three movies; we have our own festival; we have a foundation now. The first show for that foundation is an acoustic benefit thing that we're doing in a couple, two-three weeks. So we're very much thinking about that. So we're always doing different things. When we tour, we try to break up the touring by… we play outdoors, we play indoors, we play big places, we play small places. When we come to New York, we always play a different place. So we have this fear of repetition and this fear of falling into the same cycles, and we're very conscious of that. And so we always try to break it up as much as possible and always embrace different creative challenges as much as we can."
METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich says that he was "stunned" by Miley Cyrus's take on the TEMPLE OF THE DOG classic "Say Hello 2 Heaven" at this past Wednesday's (January 16) "I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell" concert at the Forum in Los Angeles.
Cyrus, whose addition to the show earlier in the week raised a few eyebrows, first hit the stage in a sparkly minidress for an acoustic cover of Cornell's "Two Drink Minimum", then returned later in the night to join TEMPLE OF THE DOG for the aforementioned "Say Hello 2 Heaven".
"Thank you, everybody," she said at the end. "I fucking wanted to sing this song tonight. We love you, Chris. Thank you for bringing us all together like you always have. It's a fucking honor. This was the fucking best day."
On Friday, Ulrich took to his Instagram to post a photo of him backstage with Cyrus, along with the message: "Still stunned by your next level version of 'Say Hello 2 Heaven' for Chris! Beyond inspiring."