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It doesn’t matter how many times you have played onstage, nor how many times you have played a song, sometimes you just get up there and the fingers desert you at the crucial moment, and so it was for Kirk Hammett at Metallica’s sold-out show at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Friday, 4 August.
The show was the first in the band’s US leg of their M72 Tour, a show that involves playing two entirely different sets, two nights apart. Even if you have been playing some of these songs since 1983, 30-plus tracks played in a stadium crowd is a big ask.
And there was no shortage of finger-twisters there. The likes of Creeping Death, Master Of Puppets and Holier Than Thou all feature Hammett solos that push the envelope of metal guitar.
But you would not think that Nothing Else Matters, the power-ballad from the Bay Area behemoth’s smash-hit Black Album, would be the one to flummox Hammett, and especially not with Greeny in hand, the 1959 Les Paul Standard once owned by the late great bluesmen Peter Green and Gary Moore – and now available as
After taking a pass at it, however, Hammett called for a time out, raked his guitar pick across the strings. It wasn’t up to snuff, and he marched up to mic to apologise.
“Okay, it’s the first show. Ha ha ha! I’m going to do this intro all over for you guys again,” he said, smiling but a little exacerbated too. “It’s just not good enough for myself, and if it is not good enough for myself, it’s not good enough for you!”
Take two. No problems. The moment was captured by fan-shot footage. It will barely be a footnote on what has been a hugely successful tour for Metallica, not least in terms of ticket sales, but the format, and how it confronts the challenges of putting a set together that gives legacy classics an airing and an opportunity to play new material.
And then there’s the production, which manages to give a stadium show the intimacy of a club without losing any of its grandeur. Testament’s Alex Skolnick was in attendance on Friday and was effusive in his praise.
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“It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard Metallica songs (as most of us have for decades now) this new show is a fresh, new experience; a work of art,” he wrote on Instagram. “At this point, these guys could just be relaxing, enjoying the (very) good life but instead they’ve become one of the hardest working acts, period. Trust me, you’ve never experienced a concert like this.
“Watching from the floor, sometimes they’re super close, like a club show. Then, there they are half-way across the NFL field. Then they’re back (or just one or two guys). Yet anywhere you watch, it hits just as hard, thanks to the ‘water tower’ big screens and unreal lights.
“It says a lot that on the first ‘no repeat weekend’ show – a set that included, Creeping Death, Orion, Seek & Destroy, Fade to Black, Master of you-know-what and so much more, it felt nothing was missing, despite no For Whom The Bell Tolls, One, Enter Sandman (all no doubt saved for Sunday).”
Those were indeed saved for Sunday. Metallica's M72 World Tour picks up on 9 August in Chicago. See Metallica for full dates.