METALLICA. Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle, Stuttgart. 09.04.18
There’s poetry to Metallica playing in Germany. It can be a sweaty, bellowing, beer-guzzling kind of poetry, sure, but there’s a certain undeniable rhythm to the premier metal band playing in the premier metal country. There’s energy at every single Metallica show of course, an electric testament to just how much the boys from the Bay Area mean to people, but here, tonight, in Stuttgart, the amps are up, the needles are in the red, and, when the band finally emerge after their usual lengthy intro tape, a switch is firmly flicked.
‘Hardwired’ might be a new song but as it gallops into life it’s welcomed like a classic. Those in the standing area, surrounding the band playing in the round, bang heads and pump fists and yell lyrics, while those in the seating areas, who are not permitted to stand, stand the hell up anyway. And while the band are booming, the capacity crowd are louder still.
The venue helps. For the most part the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle is a standard Euro-cowshed but it’s low and wide rather than tall and steep so the sound inside has nowhere to wash away. Instead it’s a tsunami, instead it pins your ears back, instead it makes you that special kind of deaf that means you aren’t afraid to sing along to every word. And Metallica have always fed off of that sort of reception. They suck the energy up and spit it back out in the form of ‘Atlas, Rise!’, a massive ‘Seek & Destroy’, and a slowed down but heavied-up version of ‘Hit the Lights’ and the place is going nuts.
Then it seems the band might have come out of the blocks too hard. Kirk’s guitar has a seriously ugly twang almost all the way through ‘The Unforgiven’, ‘Dream No More’ is average and overlong, and, besides Rob Trujillo, who seems ready for much, much more, everyone seems a little out of breath. A few moments of theatre are hit and miss too- when a fleet of spotlight drones take to the air during ‘Moth into Flame’ it’s a genuine jaw on the floor moment but while a full-band drum circle for ‘Now That We’re Dead’ probably seemed like a cool idea when Lars came up with it (it was definitely Lars), it just feels kinda silly here. It certainly doesn’t deserve to have bumped any other song or solo off the setlist.
The good ship Metallica has not sailed this far for this long without being able to right itself though and a blast through ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ gets the room going again. A rare cover of ‘Am I Evil?’, a thunderous version of ‘The Memory Remains’, and ‘Halo on Fire’, one of the best cuts from ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’, follow but then the loudest singalong of the night isn’t for a Metallica song at all.
At almost every date of this World Wired tour, Rob and Kirk Hammett have joined forces to play snippets of classic songs that have emerged from the local area and tonight is no differe… well actually, no, tonight is different. Instead of any German punk or metal standard they bundle through ‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’ by Stuttgart-born eighties synthpop star Peter Schilling. There are some bemused faces but it takes seconds before everyone is singing along or smiling broadly. Laughing at the band for trying this and laughing at themselves for joining in but unable to stop all the same. It’s a ridiculous and brilliant moment.
Sadly, the end must come. But, perhaps more than any band touring today, Metallica are capable of going out with a bang. They play ‘Sad but True’ and ‘One’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ and now even people that have seen this band do much the same thing many times before are out of breath while the boys on stage are unstoppable. Lars manages to sit down the entire way through ‘Nothing Else Matters’, Hetfield remains the epitome of cool despite his clunky banter failing to improve in 30 years, and a final ‘Enter Sandman’ is massive- a magical metal milestone that manages to sound heavier here than ever.