Bringing it’s massive Hardwired… to Self-Destruct tour to Chicago, metal icons Metallica performed alongside Avenged Sevenfold and Chicago’s own Local H Sunday evening at Soldier Field…
“It’s a sea of Metallica shirts,” noted Local H frontman Scott Lucas early in the evening Sunday at Soldier Field. “Looks like my shop class in high school.”
Sunday’s was the culmination of a week’s worth of metal shows in Chicago to feature three generations of metal acts ranging from the late 70s with Iron Maiden (Thursday in Tinley Park), to the 80s and beyond with Metallica (Sunday at Soldier Field). Each show saw opening performances by some of metal’s most popular current acts: Swedish metal outfit Ghost, who opened for Maiden, and Avenged Sevenfold, who preceded Metallica.
Much like Iron Maiden earlier in the week, Metallica is using their current tour to make the case for their most recent studio release (for Metallica, November’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct – a double album which hit number one on the Billboard 200 album chart).
The difference was that Iron Maiden didn’t perform more than two songs off any other album in their entire catalog (one which spans almost forty years), while Metallica performed the same number of songs from their latest album as they did from their most successful: a self-titled effort from 1991 better known as the Black Album (five tracks from each totaled ten of the eighteen songs performed).
Metallica is actually ignoring nearly a third of their recorded career on this tour – a span which begins with the Load album in 1996 and runs through 2008’s Death Magnetic. The only song performed Sunday night released during that stretch was “Fuel,” from 1997’s Reload.
So the current tour picks up where recent Metallica festival appearances, including a headlining slot in Chicago at Lollapalooza in 2015, left off, building setlists based largely upon the hits. It’s the type of set fans have waited a long time for. It’s also one that uses the hits to further the band’s argument for the new music.
The most surprising part is just how well the five new tracks fit in the current set. The frenetic pace of opener “Hardwired” set the tone early and “Atlas, Rise!” managed to maintain it immediately following, as the band geared up for 1984’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” third in the set.
While Metallica got a bit political in opening the show with “Hardwired,” vocalist and guitarist James Hetfield, in his guise as master of ceremonies, quashed any hope that might continue almost immediately.
Leading into “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Hetfield went into a lengthy rant about how the band didn’t care who was in attendance or what they stood for. “We are here celebrating life with live music,” said the frontman. And while probably music to the ears of the guy in front of me entering Soldier Field clad in a leather jacket bearing the Confederate flag, it was a sentiment that fell far, far short of the heartfelt message of acceptance and inclusion expressed by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson on stage in Tinley Park earlier in the week.
This current Metallica live show is a well-oiled machine. It runs just over two hours and functions almost flawlessly in an effort to churn out the sound effects, pyro and high def videos that capture the attention of an inattentive audience in the outdoor stadium setting. It’s arguably the most tightly scripted start-to-finish affair the band has ever staged.
As a result, it’s also the type of show that leaves little room for variation in the setlist. For example, Jerry Only of the Misfits was in attendance Sunday at Soldier Field. But there was simply no way to work in one of Metallica’s several Misfits covers, regardless of how appropriate it may have been.
But those complaints ultimately come off as minor when a show is this tight and a band sounds this good. To be sure, there were hiccups (most notably in the live instrumentation which powered a slightly askew take on one of Metallica’s most powerful live tracks in “Fade to Black”). But the band deserves credit for not faking it. In a show so tightly scripted, in an era where everyone else is cheating, such a moment was oddly endearing. It would’ve been a little strange had everything been perfect.
The sheer volume and bone-rattling impact of the sound effects which simulated war and led into the band’s performance of “One” was impressive Sunday as the members of Metallica loomed larger than life on a series of high quality video screens several stories high.
But “Seek & Destroy” was the clear highlight of Sunday’s show. The band huddled together in the middle of the crowd on a tiny stage meant to replicate their earliest days performing within the cozy confines of a garage. And it worked. Every fist on the floor was in the air as the band tore through the thrash metal anthem.
“Battery,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” proved a veritable murderer’s row in forming both the encore and culmination of Sunday’s eighteen song set.
But Sunday’s show actually started in the sunlight – at the early hour of 6PM. Those who arrived early were rewarded with a powerful forty-five minute opening set from Chicago’s own Local H, performing to their single largest Chicago crowd.
Local H won a Metallica contest for an opening slot on several dates of the Hardwired tour and, in a show of good sportsmanship, welcomed vocalist Aly Jados of Chicago’s Blood People to the stage. Blood People was also featured in the Metallica contest and Jados, who has performed on both American Idol and The Voice, tore through the vocal on an impressive cover of Motörhead’s “(We Are) The Road Crew” (a searing take which Local H vocalist and guitarist Scott Lucas dedicated to Metallica’s road crew on Father’s Day).
Preceding a tight, hour long set from California metal quintet Avenged Sevenfold, Local H seemed grateful for the opportunity and frontman Scott Lucas proved affable as he worked the crowd into a frenzy for what was yet to come.
Local H balanced hits like “Fritz’s Corner,” “Bound for the Floor” and “Hands on the Bible,” with newer material like “The Misanthrope” and “John the Baptist Blues.”
The duo’s (Lucas alongside drummer Ryan Harding) take on “High-Fiving MF,” the first single from their 1996 breakthrough As Good As Dead, was drenched with more than a little irony preceding a Metallica set in the sun at Soldier Field.
– Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )