January 17th, 2017 – AsiaWorld Arena, Hong Kong
Metallica was loudica and fastica during their show at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Arena on Friday night. They were thrilling and awesome too.
Yet the first ever city appearance by the San Francisco thrash metal veterans was important on a couple of other levels as well. With over 10,000 in attendance, it showed that a large Hong Kong audience wants to see a heavy act like this (virtually unthinkable even a decade ago). It also showcased the fact that the city is now much more than just a haven for safe, veteran promotion driven cash cow performers (Air Supply, Sting, et al) who have been a mainstay of shows here. Metallica’s appearance and response is proof of a desire for the proverbial next level of concerts.
And how. “Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise”, two songs from Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (their first studio album in eight years) kickstarted the show aggressively. This was a two hour barrage of sound that let the music do the talking, save for impressive, continued laser effects and a large five screen backdrop which alternately focused on the band, the audience and some impressive filmed interstitials.
Whereas lead singer James Hetfield was once a spitting, cursing ball of energy in his youth, years of touring have now transformed him into a charismatic lead singer who encouraged the audience to “let it all loose”. “I can tell this is the best show of the tour so far,” he said at one point, while making numerous mentions of the city throughout the night. The audience, well split between expats and locals, lapped it up, choosing to stand rather than sit throughout.
With fully one third of the 18 song set focused on the new album, the rest was surprisingly devoted to material 25 years or older. Mid-period Metallica, from “Load” onwards, was curiously left on the shelf. But whether it was the anthemic charger “For Whom The Bell Tolls” from second album “Ride The Lightning” or the near punkish call and response tune “Seek and Destroy” off their debut Kill ‘Em All, this was a frantic adrenalized rush for air guitar fanatics and arena thrashers alike. Though Hetfield’s lyrics were largely buried underneath a guitar avalanche that clearly pressed the limits of the arena’s long questioned sound system, it was nirvana for metal fans.
Guitarist Kirk Hammett (who played with flair and precision throughout), bassist Rob Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich all had brief interludes with which to showcase their solo talents (with Trujillo’s bass pummelling getting special applause). Yet these were largely brief palate cleansers for the songs themselves, which culminated with the highly charged “Battery”, singalong ballad “Nothing Else Matters” and the group’s lone chart topping early nineties single “Enter Sandmen”. By this time, the crowd was one large standing whirling dervish mass of shouting energy. And Metallica, visibly stunned by the reaction, didn’t seem to want to depart from the stage–vowing to be back sooner, rather than later.
02 ATLAS, RISE!
03 FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
04 CREEPING DEATH
06 NOW THAT WE’RE DEAD
07 MOTH INTO FLAME
08 WHEREVER I MAY ROAM
10 HALO ON FIRE
11 SAD BUT TRUE
13 MASTER OF PUPPETS
14 FADE TO BLACK
15 SEEK AND DESTROY
17 NOTHING ELSE MATTERS
18 ENTER SANDMAN
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Over the past two decades, Scott Murphy has talked to many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, in addition to vital up and comers. As a long-time producer at MTV-Asia and Channel V, he created several programs and produced many long-form documentaries on such acts as U2, Metallica, Madonna and more. He’s also been published in many newspapers and publications around the world. Currently, he’s a Creative Director at Dragon 8, a Hong Kong based auction house.
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