Metallica, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review

Dionne Kennedy plays Metallica bingo amongst fuel, fire and firefly drones

“JUST PLAY THE METAL,” a red-faced fifty-something shouts from the back of the SSE Hydro in Glasgow after Metallica’s seasoned front-man James Hetfield dedicates Moth Into Flame to the late Amy Winehouse.

You would’ve hit a full house of Metallica bingo within 20 minutes of the band taking the stage. Flames? Check. Hetfieldisms (yeeeeaaaahhh!). Check. Gloriously overwrought guitar solo? Check. Lars’ liberal take on traditional timekeeping? Check. Check. Ch-check.

I could easily, happily even, write a list of comedic things overheard at the sold-out WorldWired Tour: “Earplugs?! At a Metallica concert? Are you mental hen?” (another middle-aged man), but with an unexpectedly spectacular performance from the Californian metal icons, it would only detract from the matter at hand.

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The veteran rockers have been touring for 36 years and despite some missteps along the way in the middle (Lou Reed collaboration, anyone?) they have retained a fairly consistent, generation-spanning fan base.

The most fervent fans, however, wouldn’t hesitate to admit things were edging on stale. In a bid to shake things up, the metal luminaries did what all ageing rock bands before them have done (I’m looking at you, U2) and produced a stadium tour, in the round.

A ninja-star shaped stage leaves Hetfield inches away from 10-year-old Robert, who is no doubt reeling today as he tells his friends of the joy of the front-man shaking his hand, handing him a set of plectrums and drumsticks (with bonus shout out to Robert’s dad for taking him along) and Scotland specific merchandise (a Scotland top emblazoned with Metallica logo) topped off a show smattered with stunning production values.

Cubes coil up and down from the ceiling during Seek and Destroy, displaying an impressive collection of Glasgow-based archive footage and ticket stubs, and with live cameras grabbing the rockers on stage – you don’t miss a minute of guitar-shredding greatness. If that wasn’t enough, firefly lights fly overheard, catching the eye of many a gawping metalhead mid-headbang.

A tight, polished set is somewhat expected from a hardened metal band of 36 years– and save for a little sloppiness on the classics – Metallica delivered. As always, leaping on stage to Morricone classic Ecstasy of Gold, they launch into latest single Hardwired, to the delight of even the fervidly old school fans.

Unsurprisingly, the seminal hits are the true crowd pleasers, Welcome Home (Sanitarium) sees the hardcore standing mob truly get moving. For Whom the Bell Tolls is met with a roar of delight across the arena, and some eccentric air-guitar from fans, but newer material is sewn seamlessly throughout; “I knew it was good, but you guys knew it was gooder,” Hetfield tells the crowd.

Closing off a run of their biggest hits is Spit Out The Bone, like the Winehouse tribute, another song from 2016’s Hardwired… release which saw its first live airing earlier this week at their London show, playing to a record-breaking 22,211 fans at The O2.

With a litany of over-the-top visuals, the perfect combination of hits and new material and at least three costume changes (all forms of leather and/or studs, of course) they’ve raised the bar for metal bands everywhere. Metallica continue to blaze in all their fiery glory.

The tour continues October 28, Manchester Arena.