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As the clock hand inched towards 9 PM on Sunday, May 29, Boston Calling’s Green Stage lit up with the infamous “Ecstasy of Gold” scene from the 1966 Western film “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” When the image of Tuco (played by Eli Wallach) running around the graveyard hit the big screens, Metallica fans instantly knew that this concert would be nothing short of an epic masterpiece.
Instead of following up the cinema clip with their cover of “Ecstasy of Gold,” the Los Angeles band started the show with two hard-hitting ragers: “Whiplash” from their 1983 debut album “Kill ‘Em All,” and “Ride The Lightning” from their sophomore album of the same name. Lars Ulrich’s staccato drum beats accompanied by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield’s menacing growls set a lively energy, proving why Metallica is king of thrash metal.
“Heads are bobbing all around/ it's hot as hell tonight / You're thrashing all around / Acting like a maniac” definitely became the forecast for the rest of the night. Through head-bopping tracks like “Wherever I May Roam,” the band would invite the crowd in on the show, letting their chorus of yeahs act as the metronome for their guitar riffs.
Being by far the most attended day of the three day weekend, their headlining performance faced some high expectations. Safe to say, the Boston crowd was not left disappointed.
Hetfield was constantly interacting with the crowd, with praises like “Y’all are beautiful by the way,” as well as a healthy dose of egging on saying, “That's what I thought” and “Don't stop now” successfully edging them on in the chorus of “Seek & Destroy.” The crowd easily matched the high-pace, high-intensity energy of the band — perhaps due to the significant increase in intoxication as the show progressed. Still, they went silent to hear the complex stacked riffs in songs like “One” and “Sad But True” — and then thrashed around in mosh pits for the impressive bass/guitar battle in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” where lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo crawled on the ground while flawlessly delivering their runs. Metallica’s meticulous musical production shined on tracks like these, their layered melodies going beyond the default riff-heavy metal sound and setting them apart from the rest.
The black and white LED display flashed during moments like this, yellow shards forming and breaking in the background, making Hammett’s iconic purple guitar stand out amidst the chiaroscuro. Trujillo’s braids bobbing up and down during his energetic solos, the deep, reverberating chords melting into the night. Hetfield himself took no time to relax, stacking two guitars atop each other to show off his finesse. These complex musical progressions would then segue into the chorus of the next song, providing a seamless ebb and flow to the concert.
“In Brazil a woman gave birth at a Metallica concert,” Hetield shared towards the end of their performance, going on to advise the pregnant festival goers to not do so. Pregnant or not, almost everyone stuck around for the encore. How could they leave when Hattfield enticed them with phrases like “Are you alive Boston? Show me how to be alive!” before transitioning into “Battery.” Lyrics of the eternal Metallica family being together for all time really resonated during the live performance, where the musical notes took on a life and narrative of their own.
“I got distracted by how badass I was,” Hammett apologized before restarting the guitar solo on “Nothing Else Matters.” The bridge’s building progression was just as breathtaking the second time around, winding up the melody of one of their most tender and vulnerable tracks ever.
To no one's surprise, Metallica closed out the night — and the whole festival — with their most popular hit, “Enter Sandman.” The hero on this track was Ulrich. The entire band turned their backs to the festival to watch him deliver his superhumanly paced solo as the lights shone out on them and the entire crowd. After a brilliant execution, he stood up on the drums, reveling in the cheers of “Neverland” echoing throughout the stadium.
“The Metallica family together at last and off to never never land,” Hetfield reflected, sticking around for a while after their set had ended to spend more time with the fans. As guitar picks and drum sticks went flying, Ulrich could be heard saying “Am I the only one who thinks that we should be coming around to Boston more often than every 5 fucking years?” Indeed, after a reunion like that, it is clear that the Metallica family cannot get enough of the Boston stage.
—Staff writer Alisa S. Regassa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @alisaregassa.
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