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As deafening chants of anticipation and eagerness filled the air, the thrash metal heavyweights took the stage.
“Metallica is with you City Limits – it’s about time,” Hetfield shouted as screams from the audience greeted him.
The band produced resounding performances across the first two weekends of October at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. As the headlining event for both Saturday nights, thousands of eager concertgoers flocked to the American Express Stage to see the band in action.
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In their usual fashion, an edited version of the classic Clint Eastwood western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, played on screen as Ennio Morricone’s timeless “Ecstasy of Gold” rang in the background, acting as their setlist intro. This seemingly unrelated component of the band’s performance has been used to kickstart their shows for decades.
Both weekends saw the band open with “Hardwired,” an explosive track from their latest full-length album Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. As one might expect, Metallica expertly played through the opening song, leaving many audience members little opportunity to collect themselves in between the fast-paced guitar riffs and thundering double-bass drum beats.
Amid vibrant light effects and dense smoke coming off the U-shaped stage, Metallica powered through the rest of the setlist showcasing the stylistic range that differentiates them from other genre contemporaries.
Their song “Creeping Death,” a staple within the thrash metal subgenre, came early on both weekend sets, notable for its high-tempo and relentless down-picked riffs. The slow, heavy-hitting “Sad But True” made an appearance toward the end of the band’s set on both Saturdays giving fans a steady beat to head-bang to.
Some of their more mainstream material also found its place in the setlist. “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman,” two of the band’s most commercially successful songs, gave rise to fervent cheers and roars during their three-song encore. Personal favorites, “One” and “Master of Puppets” spurred large-scale mosh pits throughout the crowd giving rowdy fans an outlet to let loose. A variety of other tracks were played during both weekends, giving fans a taste of material from nearly every era of Metallica.
Their performance highlighted the tone and technical ability in their music that place them atop the hierarchy of heavy music. Clean intros and melodic interludes offset the crushing pace of the verses and choruses of many songs, “The Unforgiven” and “Battery” are two prime examples. The ferocity of “Creeping Death” and “Master of Puppets” remind the listener why the subgenre is aptly named “thrash” metal. And the technical masterclass that is “Blackened” ultimately reveals the level at which this band is able to perform live.
An overwhelming sense of camaraderie pulsed throughout the sea of onlookers as Metallica tackled each song. Thousands of fans were jumping with fists in the air echoing lyrics from every song. Something entirely expected given the domineering presence the metal virtuosos brought to the stage. It was clear that the heavy wall of distortion blaring out of the amplifiers was a welcome sound to those in the crowd with a taste for heavier music.
As the concert closed out, fans chanting “Metallica! Metallica!” Reverberated across the festival grounds as those close to the stage made their way toward the exit with awe strung across their faces.
Your resident metal columnist.