Concert review: Metallica thrills fans with long-awaited return to Spokane Arena
Fans packed the sold-out Spokane Arena on Sunday night to welcome Metallica back to town for the first time in more than a decade. The beloved metal masters quickly proved the long-anticipated performance was well worth the wait.
Despite early indications that the night might get a little too wild for comfort – before Metallica even made an appearance, medics had to carry a floor-level audience member out on a stretcher – the concert went on without any further disturbances more distracting than the obligatory stage-front moshing.
Shortly after the band was scheduled to start, comedian and show opener Jim Breuer informed the crowd that in just a few more minutes, Metallica fully intended to, in the paraphrased words of drummer Lars Ulrich, kick Spokane’s rear. The crowd erupted and rose to its collective feet, cameras pointed at the closed southwest entrance.
Rock salutes and the names of each band member filled the air as Metallica finally took center stage.
Throughout the show, album art from “Hardwired … To Self Destruct,” “… And Justice For All” and “Master of Puppets” flashed across a mass of cubic TV screens above the stage. The 52 cubes, which at times displayed the Spokane Chiefs logo, the Clocktower and photos of memorabilia from previous Spokane shows, moved up and down over the stage, which was configured in the round with fans seated on all sides. The drum riser rotated throughout the evening so that the entire audience got a chance to see Ulrich play.
After opening the show with “Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise!,” lead vocalist James Hetfield apologized to the audience for being away from Spokane for so long. The crowd cheered as Hetfield played the opening notes of “Seek & Destroy.”
“I want to know … are you alive?” Hetfield asked, challenging the crowd as they responded with a defiant “Yes!”
The group seemed to particularly enjoy performing “Now That We’re Dead,” which incorporated an extended drum solo featuring all four band members on individual cube-shaped drum boxes. After a few more songs, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo stole the mics for a brief interlude dedicated to fan and friend of the group, Ozzy Osbourne. Trujillo then played an extended bass solo in the spirit of former Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who died in 1986, as the rest of the band rejoined.
Hetfield’s “you want more old stuff?” earned a resounding “Yes!” from the crowd and the band launched into “Motorbreath” and “Creeping Death” with an emphatic pyrotechnic display, the heat from which could be felt throughout the Arena.
Perhaps the most memorable special effect of the night came next during “Moth Into Flame.” A swarm of small, bubble-like, light-up drones rose from the stage, circling the band in alternating möbius formations.
(The effect, billed as the world’s first autonomous indoor drone performance by a major touring act by the website taittowers.com, uses drones that measure 6-by-6-by-1.4 inches, each with an onboard LED light.)
After the audience had been sufficiently mesmerized by the bubble drones, Hetfield shared a few heartfelt words.
“Metallica is extremely grateful to be up here loving what we do and doing what we love after 37 years,” Hetfield said. “Thank you for supporting live music. You are officially in the Metallica family.”
“It’s so beautiful to see,” Hetfield said drawing attention to a family in the front row who had brought their 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. Hetfield said Metallica appreciates seeing multiple generations of fans in their audiences, from the youngest to the wisest of them.
After closing with “One” and “Master of Puppets,” Metallica left the stage. They had performed for more than two hours without intermission, but from the wild applause continuing to ring out through the Arena, it was clear the audience wasn’t ready to let them leave quite yet.
Each of the three songs in the encore received more applause than the last. First up was “Blackened” (from “…And Justice For All”), followed by “Nothing Else Matters,” from the band’s biggest selling album, the Grammy-winning 1991 release, “Metallica,” also known as “The Black Album.” Of course they saved their biggest hit for last: “Enter Sandman,” also from “The Black Album.”
“Metallica loves Spokane,” Hetfield said as he left the stage with a salute to the cheering crowd.
(See the full setlist here.)