Live review: Metallica crank out the classics in an overproduced stadium spectacle

Metallica's show at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field aimed to deliver on high expectations – and came reasonably close

metallica live review

Photo by Black Tea Photography

Here’s a basic fact: live rock music works best in venues where you are seated less than eight miles away from the band. Stadium rock shows compensate for this inherent disadvantage by displaying the band on giant video screens – and much of the success of a stageshow like Metallica’s WorldWired tour lies in the execution of the video production. At Guns N’ Roses’ 2016 stadium tour, the video monitors were used to dramatically magnify Slash and Axl to appear as though they were several stories tall, endowing them with godlike stature. But the stage production of Metallica’s 2017 WorldWired Tour is overproduced and distracting.

The production goes overboard on the video effects, which create a new layer of separation between the band and the audience. Each song renders the band in a different visual filter: a faux newspaper style using halftone dots, a stark black and white filter, the hypersaturated warped faces of the Hardwired to Self Destruct album artwork. The result is that segments of Metallica’s show feel more like watching a presentation of Photoshop filters than a live rock band. During Metallica’s epic war tragedy ‘One,’ the video screens didn’t show the band at all, instead playing a narrative animation illustrating the song. That song felt more like watching a movie than a rock concert. If I had wanted to go to the movies, I wouldn’t have paid for a ticket that was expensive enough to have covered Metallica’s entire booze budget circa 1991.

Metallica’s show at Lincoln Financial Field was also marred by a sloppy performance from drummer Lars Ulrich. The worst offender was ‘Sad But True’ – also my favorite Metallica song and the song I was most excited to hear live. Lars steamrolled over the song, eliminating many of its accents and awkwardly rushing the band through. It was messy.

The rest of the band members were in fighting shape. Frontman James Hetfield (aka ‘Papa Het,’ according to a patch on his vest) displayed a masterful command of the crowd, using his trademark bellow to implore: “PHILLY – are you aliiive?” Lead guitarist Kirk Hammet was an elegant counterpoint to the machismo of his bandmates. And bassist Rob Trujillo has the sturdiest stage presence this side of Frank Black or an actual mountain. One emotional highlight of the show occurred during the Kill ‘Em All bass solo ‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),’ when Rob was displayed alongside video of beloved Metallica founding member Cliff Burton.

The setlist proved to be a crowd-pleaser as the band ripped through enduring classics like ‘Battery’ and ‘Master of Puppets.’ So Metallica’s stage show won’t disappoint if you’re looking to drink beer, hear Metallica play the hits, and holler the lyrics of ‘Enter Sandman’ along with a bad grandpa wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Fuck Milk, Got Pot?’ But the show is marred by overproduction and sloppy drumming, so keep your expectations somewhere between good and almost great.

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