Live Review: Metallica at The O2 Arena, London

Photography & review by Phil Ashdown, eil.com

On Tuesday 24th October I was fortunate enough to see arguably the biggest Metal band on the planet, Metallica, play to a record O2 crowd of 22,211 rabid fans on their Hardwired World Tour.

It had been 8 years since the band last played an indoor arena tour in the UK so expectations were understandably high and from my position in the lower level seating, watching the venue floor fill to capacity the atmosphere was palpable. Again Metallica performed ‘in the round’ which not only increases capacity but essentially creates four front rows and allows a good view wherever you happen to be in the huge London venue. More bands should definitely embrace this format.

The band made their way to the stage as the intro music ‘Ecstasy Of Gold’ gave way to the opening riff of album opener ‘Hardwired’, followed quickly by another new song ‘Atlas, Rise!’. This tour is in support of their latest album Hardwired To Self Destruct and Metallica obviously want to play some new songs in a live setting, the crowd want to hear the old stuff and third song in we got the unexpected classic ‘Seek And Destroy’ from their debut album.

The huge lighting rig consisted of dozens of floating cubes which dazzled with projections of band members, sometimes live and from previous incarnations including legendary bassist Cliff Burton during ‘Fade To Black’. During ‘Moth Into Flame’ a swarm of tiny firefly-like LED drones spiralled out of the stage floor, swooping around the rigging until falling back into the stage only to appear from the floor again to resume their mesmerising dance again. Very effective and something I hadn’t seen before.

At times the visuals seemed a little odd, including when the band members formed a drum circle to beat a tattoo on individual glowing cubes that elevated from the floor like something out of the ‘Stomp’ West End Musical!

The sound, after a slightly muddy start was clear and loud with Lars’ drumming sounding very impressive. Maybe the central position of the speakers helped with the overall aural quality because for the O2 it was particularly good.

Obviously the newer material has not had the chance to stand the test of time and possibly a total of seven new numbers is a bit much but during the over two and a half hours the old ones certainly hit the mark. Metallica have said that they want to play every song from the latest album live during this tour and tonight we got the debut of ‘Spit Out The Bone’ which was the first one of the encore.

The evening ended with ballad ‘Nothing Else matters’ and the sublime, muscular ‘Enter Sandman’ with the obligatory fireworks and flames. Everyone has their favourite tunes from their 36-year career so it’s impossible to please everyone and with no songs from the previous four albums it became possible to give such rare live gems as ‘Leper Messiah’ and ’Creeping Death’ an outing.

The show also featured a live debut for their song Spit Out The Bone, taken from their most recent album, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, see the pro-recorded and officially released video below:

Setlist:
The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone song)
Hardwired
Atlas, Rise!
Seek & Destroy
Leper Messiah
Fade to Black
Now That We’re Dead (with extended middle drum… more )
Confusion
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Halo on Fire (followed by Kirk and Rob’s… more )
Last Caress (Misfits cover)
Creeping Death
Moth Into Flame
Sad but True
One
Master of Puppets
Encore:
Spit Out the Bone (live debut)
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman (with ‘The Frayed Ends of Sanity’ outro)

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