There were still a lot of questions going into Saturday's sold-out Metallica show at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Would the heinous concession and bathroom lines that dogged the NFL palace's soccer-game debut persist? Would the concourse flooding with 50,000 metal fans too often grind to a halt? Perhaps most pressing for music fans, how will it sound inside the glass Star Wars sandcrawler?
Not even the metal gods tasked with performing could answer the last one before taking the stage. With famously keistered country star Luke Bryan playing the night before, the band didn't get the chance to do its usual sound check before one of the most anticipated Twin Cities concerts in recent memory.
“Today, [we're] basically just gonna jump up there and wing it,” bassist Robert Trujillo confidently tells City Pages backstage, despite the unknowns of a new venue.
“You never know what you're going to get,” he later adds, comparing the highs and lows of stadium sound quality.
But in landing a rare 2016 Metallica gig, stadium brass knew exactly what they were getting: The greatest American metal band of all time and one of the most stadium-trained rock bands going.
After an opening set from hard-rocking Danes Volbeat, radio metalheads Avenged Sevenfold delivered a (literally) fiery performance. Matching the intimate intensity of their free First Avenue show days earlier would have been impossible. However, the wall of flames erupting behind the SoCal quintet served as a reminder that these dudes are an arena-level act in their own right (even if the daylight coming through the glass walls stole some of its luster).
Concession lines even at hotspots like Revival weren't terrible (don't metal fans like fried chicken?!), though the men's bathrooms were in high demand. Squeezing through the concourse by the merch tables was the biggest headache. Prepare to rub up against at least 50 strangers in the process.
But any potential sound woes were dispelled with when Metallica hit the stage. At the very least, the thrash heroes showed they can overpower them with amps cranked to infinity.
A pair of bulldozing heyday songs – Ride the Lightning's “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” – served as a kickoff blast through the back of the end zone. The Vikings might want to retire longtime kickoff tune “Welcome to the Jungle” in favor of the latter's brooding power.
A three-song run of Load/Reload hits, capped by a snarling “The Memory Remains,” detoured from a pre-encore set otherwise culled from the “Black Album” and earlier. Thanks to the Death Magnetic sessions with Rick Rubin and the 30th anniversaries of Metallica's first three albums – three of the best metal records of all time – the band has rekindled some of its early career ferocity.
Released days before the show, thrashtastic new single “Hardwired,” which started last night's encore, taps their harder-charging younger days better than anything off Death Magnetic.
“Rather than stepping away from the past, but embracing the past and digging into it was something that helped us get to where we are now and set us up on this path,” Trujillo explains before the show.
So perhaps it's no wonder the band's 1980s classics provided the two-hour set's most potent and visceral moments.
Metallica's most requested song, “Master of Puppets,” peeled out to a burning start, leaving firework smoke and the smell of bad weed in the air. By comparison, Black Album hits “Sad But True” and “Wherever I May Roam” felt sluggish. A level of omnipotence not quite reached at past (smaller) Target Center gigs crept in as frontman James Hetfield strolled down the catwalk, jacking the loud back up after the Kirk Hammett's contemplative guitar solo.
A teeth-gnashing “Battery” followed before the energy peaked during the mid-tempo pummel of “Seek and Destroy,” a song released the year the Metrodome opened. For better or worse (but mostly better), the 19-song set glossed over Metallica's last two solo albums, 2003's unlistenable St. Anger and the much-improved Death Magnetic.
After the ripping “Hardwired,” the encore switched to cool-down mode with “Whiskey in the Jar” and “Nothing Else Matters” before stomping off with “Enter Sandman” as fireworks scraped the non-retractable roof.
No offense to country party boy Luke Bryan, but this was the monstrous break-in show that will be remembered. Fittingly, it was Dome-era anthems doing most of the damage.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Memory Remains
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Sad But True
Wherever I May Roam
Master of Puppets
Fade to Black
Seek and Destroy
Hardwired (first live performance)
Whiskey in the Jar
Nothing Else Matters