The sheer amount of people camped outside the 1,000-ish capacity Webster Hall that don’t even have a ticket tells you everything you need to know about the level of Big Deal tonight’s gig is. Metallica, a band that have made a habit out of last-minute guerrilla shenanigans, are capping off a packed two-week promo sit-in in New York with their most intimate show in years, with only fanclub members and fortunate blaggers able to make their way in. It’s all in the name of hyping the shit out of their long, long, long, long awaited new album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, but with tonight marking the 30th anniversary of Cliff Burton’s death and Lars having informed us earlier that they’ll be dusting off some rare cuts, tonight feels more like a celebration of Metallica itself than an easy album plug.
Rumours of an 8pm start time mean that the Hall is packed for a good hour before Metallica do actually arrive on stage, but any meagre hints of impatience are shattered by the sudden appearance of all four members and a swaggering rip straight into their classic cover of Budgie anthem Breadfan and Black Album deep cut Holier Than Thou. A regular Metallica set, this most definitely is not, ladies and gentlemen.
“Metallica is still alive!” quips Hetfield after a bruising Battery that sends the floor into a frenzy, before kicking straight into Harvester Of Sorrow. The atmosphere in the Hall tonight is one of celebration mixed with a genuine thrill at seeing four men used to playing stadiums close enough to high five – and it’s a novelty that seems to be reflected by the band. “We love this!” bellows Het, allowing Kirk Hammett a brief moment in the sun to bust out a cheeky solo before keeping the bangers coming with a pacey rendition of Fade To Black.
“What the hell took eight years, guys?!” offers Hetfield when he reveals that we’ll be hearing the live debut of Moth Into Flame – the track that seems to have officially got people very excited about that new album. “We’re gonna find out if we can play this live!” he adds, and to be fair, not only does the song itself sound absolutely crushing, but there isn’t a single bum note or misplaced filler – Lars even getting a high five from Rob for lasting the course before they launch into a storming Sad But True that draws the biggest reaction of the night so far.
Given that accusations of sloppiness were being levelled at them during the end of their most recent run, Metallica are showing little in the way of ring rust after a relatively quiet year, evidently relishing the intimacy of the occasion and the opportunity to jam some new tracks. An inevitable and especially touching airing of Orion prompts “Cliff!” chants, while seeing One without any pyro or pomp only rams home its timeless, eerie power.
Master Of Puppets, For Whom The Bell Tolls and Enter Sandman then wrap up a run of Metallica staples that lead us into a trusty old false finish.
“Did you have fun?!” bellows Hetfield, who’s been relatively short on the Metallibanter tonight and yet looks like he’s having the time of his life. New York is definitely having a Lovely Time itself, James, and as their encore kicks into a raucous Whiskey In The Jar, it’s probably fair to say it’s only getting lovelier.
It’s then time for newie Hardwired to get an airing (relax, it totally works live), before Seek And Destroy wraps things up nicely. As the lucky few who were able to make this gig filter back out into the night soon after, two things are definitely clear: 1) Metallica’s new material bodes very well indeed (and lord knows how good it feels to say that) and 2) Metallica looked stoked to be playing right now. Fingers crossed it all carries over into the next chapter we so desperately want.
Holier Than Thou
Harvester Of Sorrow
Fade To Black
Moth Into Flame
Sad But True
Master Of Puppets
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Whiskey In The Jar
Seek & Destroy