On Saturday 9th June, Metallica played the Download Festival once again. This was the twelfth time I’d seen them live, and they still didn’t disappoint!
Having seen them often it does start me thinking about what songs I want to hear live, and even though I knew they were doing The Black Album in its entirety I did still have a wish list of tracks I wanted to hear; one of which was the first song of the night. Metallica arrived on stage to ‘Hit The Lights’ and then went storming straight into ‘Master of Puppets’ without stopping. That was a double-whammy right out of the trap which got the crowd going.
Another Kill ‘Em All track next with a splendid version of ‘The Four Horsemen’ which also sounded brilliant. It was clear that the band were on form tonight, and were out to impress. I did not however expect to be impressed as much as I was with the most amazing sound of the next track though… I’ve heard it many times before, but tonight ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ complete with Rob Trujillo bass intro, sounded immense. Really heavy and a crowd singing along at top of their voice made for a very memorable moment.
We were here to hear The Black Album in its entirety, but before that we were treated to a Beyond Magnetic track, ‘Hell and Back’. Certainly it was a song I’d never heard live before and whilst there was nothing wrong with it, it really just dropped the energy of the setlist as the crowd generally didn’t know it, couldn’t sing along and the 6 minutes or so to play it passed with more than a little bit of a collective ‘meh’. A strange choice of song and more-so a strange place to play it given the frenzy they’d whipped up with a set of all pre-1985 tracks previously!
After a taped intro and video explaining the recording of The Black Album we were treated to the album in its entirety. What seemed strange at first was that rather than play the album as everyone in attendance has heard it hundreds of times, Metallica opted to play the album in reverse order! So – and underlining the brilliance of the decision I may add – the opening drums of ‘The Struggle Within’ started proceedings. I’ve never heard it live, and it has got to be said it was great.
‘My Friend of Misery’ went past and was also sounding strong, before we got to one of the tracks I really was looking forward to; ‘The God That Failed’. This is a sorely overlooked song which has a fantastic bass riff opening and soon as that rumbled across Donington it was evident that the majority of the crowd had been looking forward to it also.
‘Of Wolf and Man’, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘Through The Never’ were up next before a fantastic ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ complete with crowd singing along to the West Side Story ‘America’ intro. The atmosphere was building as each song passed, and Metallica have rarely sounded better. It has to be said that playing the album in reverse was a genius move. It just worked so well in a live environment.
Now we were into the final five songs, and frankly some of the best known songs. ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and ‘The Unforgiven’ sounded resplendent before a slightly less enthralling ‘Holier Than Thou’; a song which for me I’ve never really enjoyed on album or live. The double-whammy finish of the main set was of course ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. Both sounded as good as ever, even if they have always played them every time I’ve seen them. Well, actually I think there was once where ‘Enter Sandman’ wasn’t played but even so, it may not be their best song but it always sounds good live.
A great main set, and in my view the best part of the show. The encores were just a little too obvious; actually if you’ve seen Metallica live before you would probably win a bet on what the last two songs would be. They did play ‘Battery’ first which passed with little fanfare, and then we were given ‘One’ – which in fairness had been an obvious omission from the main set. Then the almost obligatory Seek and Destroy’.
Don’t get me wrong, they are all great songs and I enjoyed them, but the end of a Metallica gig just doesn’t seem to change any more. I would love to see them not finish with ‘Seek and Destroy’. Come on, mix it up a bit; confuse us all by starting with it or just don’t play it – you do have 30 years worth of other great songs.
In all tonight was a great show. As always the band sounded superb and hearing The Black Album in its entirety was excellent – I can tick it off alongside Master of Puppets in its entirety in 2006. Shame then that the final few songs just trickled off as formulaic setlist. They are great songs, and sounded as good as ever but I for one would like for them to mix it up a little bit more.