There's not a bigger metal band in the land than Metallica, so it was fitting for the California thrash metal pioneers to take over the gargantuan AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Friday night. And with all apologies to the football team that has failed to create much success in the still young billion-dollar palace, the integrity of the massive sliding glass doors and retractable roof were tested more from Metallica's fiery, athletic performance than from a Dallas Cowboys game.
As one of the most popular bands touring today, Metallica has the platform to turn its WorldWired tour into a high-profile vehicle for all sorts of statements. It was almost expected that James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet or Robert Trujillio would have something to say, politically. But in a tremendously refreshing twist, the band let its iconic songs handle the statement-making.
"We don't give a [expletive]," Hetfield said after the group authoritatively opened with a "Hardwired," and "Atlas, Rise!" a couple of tunes off its killer 2016 record Hardwired... To Self Destruct.
"We don't give a [expletive] who you voted for, we don't give a [expletive] what color you are," he continued as the reportedly sold-out crowd roared in approval of his message of rock 'n' roll escape and unity.
Near the end of the main set, the memorable opening strums to "One," the 1989 Grammy-winning anti-war song detailing a World War I soldier losing his limbs in battle, could've finally brought out some political commentary. But the song itself, along with the stunning video accompaniment, put it all out there in plain sight and sound, no further discussion needed.
First and foremost, Metallica is a rock band. Some groups love to tell us how rock 'n' roll they are, but with over 35 years of distinguished service, this band merely has to plug in to proffer its rock credentials.
Why talk about it when you can sonically shred and burn a huge stadium (metaphorically) to the ground? Metallica's show included crazy pyrotechnics and imaginative video displays on towering screens.
From where we sat in the 200 level of the stadium, the sound was fine.
The newest songs were delivered with the enthusiasm expected from a band that just released its first album in almost a decade. The pounding grooves of "Now that We're Dead" and "Moth into Flame" would've fit nicely into a Metallica set list from 1991, while classics from that seminal era, including "Sad But True," "The Unforgiven" and "Anywhere I Roam," took the dedicated throng on a tour of the time when the band brought genuinely hard music to the mainstream masses unlike any group had ever done before.
During "Now that We're Dead," each of the four players abandoned his instrument to man a large Japanese taiko drum for a bit of Vegas-style splash. The tribal nature of the beats displayed the connective tissue linking all music together, regardless of style, era or taste.
Look inside the Metallica concert in North Texas:
Predictably, any underground band that evolves its way into international commercial success will be subject to the moans and groans of closed-minded fans convinced their favorite underdogs have sold their souls for fame. If those types of followers were in attendance, they were certainly pleased that the highly debated late '90s recorded output was largely skipped, save for a fine take on 1997's "The Memory Remains," which rocks harder than most of what passes as popular hard-rock in the new millennium. As much as the first half of the night showed-off some newer tunes, the second half rolled out like a greatest hits reward package.
Metallica doesn't have happy songs, but as well as any other hard rock outfit, these guys can make the bleak sound blissful. Trujillo's psych-tinged bass solo tribute to the group's original, late bassist Cliff Burton was a goose bump-inducing moment to be sure. Closing out its regular set with 30-year old favorites "Fade to Black," "Master of Puppets" and "Seek and Destroy," it's near impossible for any fan of any Metallica era to have felt left out.
Majestically closing out the night with a three-song encore, Hetfield, Ulrich and crew offered "Nothing Else Matters," the softest tune they've ever done with "Enter Sandman," arguably the song that shot the band into global transcendence. Metallica may not care who you voted for, but with the professionalism of skilled veterans and the hungry energy of a band half its age, it's clear the guys care about being vital and relevant for yet another generation.