Metallica brought their now almost three-year-long ‘WorldWired’ Tour to Golden 1 Center Friday night, and they did not disappoint the sold-out crowd. In support of the band’s 2016 album “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct,” Sacramento was the 22nd stop (of 37 scheduled dates) on the second North American leg of the tour. The first major North American leg, in 2017, was held almost exclusively in stadiums, while this time around it’s slightly more intimate arenas like the 19,000 capacity Golden 1 Center. The arena shows feature a 360-degree stage set up in the center of the arena, allowing more fans to get “front row” spots along the rail.
Instead of an opening band, comedians Jim Breuer and Joe Sib opened the show, with Breuer acting as hype man, and Sib acting as DJ. Breuer cracked a few jokes and told a few stories (including the time he flew on Ozzy Osbourne’s private jet), but mostly tried to get the crowd pumped up for the main act. He took his microphone into the stands to find a five-year-old fan and a young woman of 68-years–the oldest and youngest Metallica fans in attendance. Breuer also welcomed anyone attending their first Metallica show into the “Metallica family,” as fans are known.
After a 30-minute break there was a sing-along, with the lyrics to famous songs from Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and others projected on screens above the stage. This got the crowd going crazy, with the majority of the sold-out crowd singing along loudly. Unfortunately, it would be another 20 minutes before the band would finally take the stage at 9:17pm.
Following a long-standing tradition of playing Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold,” with footage from ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ playing on the video screens suspended from the ceiling, the band made their way to the stage before launching into “Hardwired,” followed by “Atlas, Rise!,” both off their tenth (and latest) album. Both songs are fast-paced thrash, far more reminiscent of Metallica’s earlier work than the mid-career – let’s call it “experimentation” – that came out of a string of albums from 1996 through the early 2000’s. Most bands who’ve been around 35 years tend to go light on the new songs when playing live, sandwiching them in the middle of the set, and most fans use the new material as a good time to use the restroom or get another beer. That Metallica opened with two new songs, and played five total from their latest album, is a testament to the quality of the new material.
So, when the band played the immensely popular “Seek & Destroy” off their 1983 debut album immediately after the two new numbers, it was a near seamless transition. Thirteen of the set’s eighteen songs were from the band’s first five albums, with nothing at all from their 1996 through 2008 work. About midway through the set, after a powerful rendition of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, James and Lars left the stage and Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo did a new tradition started on this tour – they played a bit from a local band. This time, the pair chose “Elite” by Sacramento’s own Deftones. It’s a nice touch. Then, Rob Trujillo played “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),” the wah-wah and distortion-filled bass solo from Metallica’s first album that was the signature of the band’s original bass player Cliff Burton, who died in a tragic bus accident in 1986. While Rob paid tribute, slow motion video of Cliff doing his famous head-banging hair flips played on the overhead screens.
Speaking of screens – this show was full of technology and surprises. The stage, in the center of the arena, seemed sparse at first glance. Nothing but a drum riser in the center and eight microphone stands positioned equidistant around the stage, though it held some hidden surprises. More on that in a bit. First, back to the screens. Suspended above the stage on cables where 30-40 (maybe more?) cubes, each side a video screen. The cubes would move around on wires, changing heights, re-positioning themselves, joining together to make larger screens, pulling apart again as necessary. The cubes were seemingly in constant motion. Sometimes they played video, other times photographs, and sometimes they just lit up with color or patterns. During “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” the screens appeared to have people in them, trapped inside the cube, trying to get out.
When the opening notes of “Moth Into Flame” began, hidden compartments opened up in the stage and out came 120 autonomous micro drones, each lit up like a firefly. (They’re supposed to be moths, flying up to the tacky neon signs up above, but if they weren’t lit up we wouldn’t be able to see them, so we’ll just have to suspend disbelief.) It was a fun bit of tech that fit perfectly with the song.
At different points during the night, other secret compartments would open up on the stage – sometimes to fire big bursts of fire into the air, other times to shoot fireworks, and at one point four large cubes appeared and each band member played the top of a cube, doing a weird drum circle intro for “Now That We’re Dead.”
The band played for just over two hours with seemingly endless energy of musicians half their age. At one point James Hetfield remarked on the large age ranges in attendance, saying of their long-time fans (and the band members themselves, who are all in their mid 50’s): “We’re old on the outside, young on the inside.”
The main set ended strong on three of the band’s biggest hits: “Sad But True,” “One,” and “Master of Puppets” (which had all 19,000 in attendance singing along during the 8-minute anthem). After a very short break, the night was finished up with an encore of “Battery,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and finally “Enter Sandman” (which again had the crowd singing loudly – at some points Hetfield would let the crowd do the singing before joining back in).
Whatever Metallica did to reinvigorate themselves, it worked. From the best album they’ve released in years, to a powerhouse new live show that left the crowd with smiles on their faces and more than a few sore throats from 2-plus hours of singing at the top our their lungs.
For more information on Metallica and their ‘WorldWired’ Tour, visit Metallica.com.
Photos courtesy of Sara Molina.