Metallica at Outside Lands: The Five Best Parts of the Band's Fiery Hometown Show
Christopher Victorio Metallica at San Francisco's Outside Lands festival.
Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012
Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco
Better than: A skeptic could imagine.
Metallica, headlining Saturday night of the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, proved just about as huge and satisfying and powerful as Metallica can be in 2012. With a greatest-hits setlist, a small war's worth of explosives and pyrotechnics, and a huge meadow of fans shouting along, the biggest heavy metal band in the world showed that not only can it win over casual listeners and non-fans, but that it's at its best when trying to do so. Compared to Metallica's four intimate and indulgent 30th Anniversary shows at the Fillmore last year, the more than two hours of outright rampage last night felt like a well-edited tour de force.
It wasn't perfect: Hetfield played sloppily on "Master of Puppets," which may have been due to the cold; the lyrics to new song "Hell and Back" made us wish that Metallica was an instrumental band; "Ride the Lightning" sounded rickety and awkward, especially compared with contemporaneous songs like, "For Whom the Bell Tolls"; more than two hours of any artist is kind of lot; and Lars and James basked in the crowd's adoration maybe a bit too much at the end, and could have just said thank you three times and bowed and called it a night.
But those complaints are miniscule compared with the fiery spectacle Metallica put on in San Francisco last night. Here are our top five favorite parts of the show.
5. The classics-heavy setlist
Opening with "Hit the Lights" -- Metallica's very first original song -- the band took us through the highlights of its older albums: "Master of Puppets" started rough, but "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" was magnificent -- at least until the band started playing "Orion," which defined the word "magnificent." We also got: "Sad But True," "Fade to Black," an absolutely brutal "Blackened," and a glassy, gorgeous "Nothing Else Matters." There were only three post-Black Album songs in the whole set (which, yesss). These guys were aiming to please last night, and please they did. (See full setlist below.)
4. The sprawling stage
Every vertical surface on the back of the stage was also an LCD screen, with a huge display behind the band and on either side. The stage also included a long platform out into the crowd, which was pretty much the perfect place for Kirk Hammett to wind up into a blistering solo.
3. Fire! Explosions!
It took three songs -- until Hetfield bellowed out the opening demand of "Fuel" -- for Metallica to turn on its flame jets, which were arrayed both behind the band onstage (inside the big tent, scary), and on lifts to either side. They shot towers of fire you could feel from 50 yards away. Later on, "One," began with gunfire sounds and smoke bombs detonating onstage, adding to the already eerie fog. And "Enter Sandman" will never be better than when its riffs are punctuated by rocket-like fireworks shooting up into the sky.