All you sinners who masturbate to your laptops and take drugs are going to be sad – because there’s no masturbating or drugs in Hell!”
As far as welcomes go, we’ve had more polite, but if there’s anything to said of the religious crazies protesting outside San Francisco’s AT&T Park – home of the city’s Major League Baseball team, the San Francisco Giants – it’s that they only add to the excitable, curious atmosphere carrying the crowd into tonight’s pre-Super Bowl Metallica show. Of course, any Metallica show is always great cause for intrigue, speculation and, let’s be honest, moaning, but rumours abound that tonight will be the last time we’ll get to catch the honorary hometown giants before they settle down ’for realz’ to, y’know, record that new album and stuff. Will we get any new material tonight? Will Lars be on form? And what’s Hetfield’s beard looking like this month?
Before those questions can be answered, though, it’s CAGE THE ELEPHANT’s**  **turn to play the classic Token-Band-Metallica-Probably-Like-But-We’re-Not-That-Bothered-About role, and while the Kentucky rockers put in a decent enough slog, it’s evident from the get-go that the crowd is indifferent at best. Whether it’s the fact that Metallica’s still metalhead-heavy audience doesn’t click with a band who are that much lighter on the ears or that anticipation is just too high for a big Bay Area show on such a big-ass sporting weekend, it doesn’t quite work, despite the band’s best efforts to get people moving. Fair try lads, you gave it an honest go.
We’re undoubtedly here to see one band and one band only tonight, however, and given the historic importance of the occasion – this, amazingly, being METALLICA’s  first full headline concert at the iconic baseball park – anticipation is exactly as high as you’d expect for a show befitting of being anointed the Super Bowl weekend’s unofficial kick-off party. As The Ecstasy Of Gold foreshadows the arrival of the biggest band in heavy metal, Creeping Death boots things off in typically boisterous style, and we’re off.
“Let’s go!” belts an up-for-it Papa Het (today donning barely an airbrush of goatee, if you were wondering), and the Awesome Foursome make short work of tearing through a reliable opening triple-punch that also includes For Whom The Bell Tolls and Fuel – the latter featuring almighty funnels of flame towering over the set’s giant screens. “Too heavy for half-time, that’s what we’re calling this,” jokes Hetfield – perhaps a dig at the typically saccharine offering of Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars playing the Super Bowl itself. “But we get to play a whole show, in front of a lot more live people, and we get to represent the Bay Area for heavy music.” That they do, and they do it well, with recently resurrected Load classic King Nothing, Ride The Lightning’s awesome title track (featuring a bonus Kirk solo and sneaky shout-out to another Load banger, Bleeding Me) and hallmark Black Album anthem The Unforgiven all going down a storm with the San Fan faithful (aside from one grumpy punter, who remarks “Bathroom time” during the latter – you can’t please ’em all!).
While the setlist is safer than a nun’s underpants and barely removed from recent jaunts across Europe, generally speaking the band play on with aplomb, with Lars on considerably better form than usual and only occasional sloppiness from Kirk during some wayward soloing letting the side down. That said, the crowd doesn’t seem to mind, lapping up classics like Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Sad But True, a laser-powered One and Master Of Puppets like rabid beavers at a fallen Ent. “How does it feel to be alive?! Show me!” bellows Hetfield during Battery, and from the front of the Snakepit to the back of the stadium, California duly obliges – so much so that it’s uncertain whether they take full stock of the seemingly random 30 seconds of plodding riffage that takes place after the song finishes. Was that a sliver of new music we just heard?! If it was, it wasn’t much to go on, but by God we hope that means some more legitimate work’s been done.
Beyond that, there are more standards to roll out, with Fade To Black, Seek & Destroy and an encore of Whiskey In The Jar, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman (featuring bonus The Frayed Ends Of Sanity jam) wrapping things up nicely, before the show draws to a close in a fountain of fireworks and inflatable Metallica footballs (a nice touch, to be fair). If this is indeed to be Metallica’s Last Dance before the next chapter of their career finally takes off, then it won’t go down as an all-time classic gig, but in terms of throwing a pretty damn sweet football party, this is about as good as it gets.