When I received the assignment to cover last night’s Metallica show, I began mentally revving up for the mayhem of a Madison Square Garden or Barclays crowd as the band is, of course, known for their high-energy pyrotechnic-laden stadium shows. When I realized they were playing Webster Hall, I had to lie down for a moment. It’s not unheard of for Metallica to surprise fans with smaller-venue shows, such when they played Harlem’s Apollo Theatre in 2013, but it’s certainly a rarity to catch them in a setting so intimate as a nightclub.

The excitement outside Webster Hall was palpable. Fans took over 11th street; there were rumors that scalped tickets were going for as high as $1K. Even the constitutionally un-impressable venue staff were near-giddy.

James Hetfield greeted the crowd with a jovial “Before we get started…” before launching into their cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan” and then straight into “Holier than Thou” followed by “Battery.” Hetfield, still larger-than-life on a stage you might catch your buddy’s band on tomorrow, grinned ear-to-ear.



Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, Metallica’s 11th album and their first in eight years, is set to be released November 18. They played two singles from it: the standard-issue “Hardwired,” and the first ever live performance of “Moth Into Flame” which, if you haven't heard, is their most enjoyable “new” song since 1996, 1991 or 1987 depending on personal preference. Reception of new music from Metallica is always a pot-stirring event; their long-time fans tend to be diehard and extremely critical of any move from the “old school,” but the singles from the new album were extremely enthusiastically received. They didn’t neglect the staples either. “Master of Puppets,” “Enter Sandman” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” all made their way into the set (full setlist is below).

Last night’s show also fell on the 30-year anniversary of original bass player Cliff Burton’s death. Hetfield acknowledged the date, saying Burton’s name in the transition between particularly soulful renditions of “Orion” and “One.”

They closed out with a solid encore that ended with “Search and Destroy," and with a promise to return to the area next year.

Until last night, I had pretty much decided Metallica was a “nostalgia act,” figuring I’d almost certainly see them at some festival someday opening for the reanimated and/or holographic corpse of Bonn Scott. They’d be great but It would be just me and the rest of the haggard 80s/90s hold-outs, all the kids having run to the other side of the festival grounds more excited about some kind of hipster shoegaze nonsense. I’ve been a fan (albeit a passive one) since I was young enough to have to sneak-watch their videos on VH1 and was bummed to resign them to such a fate. But as it turns out, Metallica has successfully avoided the creative slump and laziness that has rendered many similar-era favorites irrelevant. I’m incredibly pleased to report that I’m a miserable jaded negative jerk who was wrong. Metallica still kicks ass.

The setlist and more photos in the gallery below:

--Blair Hopkins

Metallica @ Webster Hall – 9/27/16 Setlist
Holier Than Thou
Harvester of Sorrow
Fade to Black
Moth Into Flame
Sad But True
Master of Puppets
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Enter Sandman

Whiskey in the Jar
Seek & Destroy


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