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Metallica Alive and Thrashing on World Magnetic Tour

When a band has been touring for more than 25 years, it's only natural to wonder if the group is still relevant enough to capture a new audience and at the same time, impress the existing fan base. On Dec. 8, Metallica answered any doubters with a punishing 18-song, two-hour set at Arco Arena, in Sacramento, Calif.

Opening with "That Was Just Your Life" and "The End of the Line" off of its most recent album, Death Magnetic, Metallica stormed all over its stage, which showcased the band in an "in-the-round" format. The near-capacity crowd sang, screamed and growled along with singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, clearly approving of Metallica's newer material.

While six tracks from Death Magnetic were performed, the band's iconic back catalog also was well represented. Tracks such as "Creeping Death" and "Fight Fire With Fire" from Metallica's days as a pioneering thrash metal band were met with equal enthusiasm from the audience. Additionally, the San Francisco-based group delivered a stunning rendition of its classic thrash-progressive metal anthem "One," complete with a dazzling pyrotechnics display.

Ironically, while Death Magnetic sports a theme of being drawn into negativity and death, Hetfield was clearly high on life, exuding charisma and a commanding stage presence throughout the night as he worked his way around to all six microphones on stage.

Encouraging people to let go of their worries and embrace the band as "family," the frontman was joined on stage by Metallica's co-founder and drummer Lars Ulrich, long-time lead guitarist Kirk Hammet and bassist Robert Trujillo. "The Four Horsemen," as the quartet is called, also made sure to play some of Metallica's mainstream hits, including the blockbusters "Enter Sandman," "Sad But True" and "Fuel."

Despite the wide variety of material performed, however, the show's pacing left something to be desired. For example, while the acoustic-tinged "Nothing Else Matters" is arguably Metallica's most known song, all of the energy built up from the aforementioned "Fight Fire With Fire" was lost as the band transitioned to the slower cut.

While awkwardness in song flow is somewhat expected with a ballad from a heavy metal band, the same rang true for most of the tracks Metallica performed from its post-1980s output (excluding cuts from the thrash-revisited Death Magnetic). The noticeable drop in intensity from the band was a stark reminder of Metallica's shift from thrash metal to hard rock still a sore subject for some of the band's fans.

The musical evolution of Metallica and pace issues aside, by the end of the night Metallica held the crowd firmly in its grasp. A three-song encore that featured a blistering cover of "Breadfan" from Budgie and mosh-pit favorites "Motorbreath" and "Seek and Destroy" capped the evening, sending both rock and metal fans home with their fists in the air.

Metallica (with Machine Head and Volbeat)
Dec. 8, 2009
Arco Arena
Sacramento, Calif.

- Brian Heaton

Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammet and Robert Trujillo
of Metallica jamming out at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
(Brian Heaton/Dec. 8, 2009)

Robert Trujillo of Metallica delivering a crushing groove at
Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. (Brian Heaton/Dec. 8, 2009)

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.