X Games: Metallica

Live Shots

photo by David Brendan Hall

X Games: Metallica

Circuit of the Americas, June 6

Metallica could be forgiven for simply collecting the paycheck at a gig with an inadequate sound mix, onstage contest winners, and a sprawling outdoor audience for an event where music isn't even the focus. As the Bay Area metal squad proved during its headlining X Games appearance, however, they're not just any band. Following Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold," the quartet came out swinging with "Fuel," stripped of its Nineties alt-rock trappings and given a speed-metal overhaul. That branded the next 100 minutes: an old-fashioned thrashing at the hands of the genre's pioneer. Only five songs hailed from the last 27 years of Metallica's career, while the other nine roared out of its 1983-86 heyday. It bespeaks the group's influence that raging blasters "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Battery," and "Master of Puppets," plus the misery-soaked trilogy "Fade to Black," "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," and "One," now stand as crowd sing-alongs. Black Album standouts "Sad but True" and set-closer "Enter Sandman" may not be thrash classics, but they still pound. Even "Cyanide," included only to note that the band put out an album in the last decade, fit the vibe. They saved their most spine-snapping savagery for last, with a three-song, shout-along encore of "Creeping Death," "Whiplash," and "Seek & Destroy." Frontman James Hetfield couldn't keep a joyful grin off his face. Despite three decades of playing such physically punishing music, the aging foursome performed with the same gleeful fury as it did when the songs were new.

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