As if its relentless drum beat and guitar blitz weren’t enough, Metallica fired off enough pyrotechnics at the Dane County Coliseum Sunday night to rattle dishes in Stoughton.
Add James Hetfield’s bullhorn vocals, which roar above the noise as if he drank motor oil, and Metallica presents hard rock’s hardest-rocking show.
Sunday’s eagerly awaited concert displayed a band still wanting to provoke fists in the air and let fans blow off steam. Each of the more than 10,000 tickets were sold in 22 minutes a few months ago, making it the quickest sellout in the Coliseum’s 37-year history. OK, online sales cut considerable time off ticket purchases, but it’s still an impressive record.
The show, of course, belonged in the much-larger Kohl Center. But arena officials there maintain a firm stance against general-admission ticketing. Metallica, and many other bands, require an open floor so the Kohl Center loses big cash, and students must venture across town to see some of the city’s most interesting shows.
With dozens of heavy-lifting security workers, it appeared Metallica’s two-hour-plus show went smoothly.
Although it formed in 1981, Metallica seemed to want to prove itself as a driving force in today’s hard rock and heavy metal scene. Band co-founders Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich are only 40 years old each and they remain a potent duo at creating a raucous and rapid sound.
Metallica earned its legions of fans without MTV or radio support – though Madison’s WJJO remains a strong supporter in recent years.
On Sunday, Metallica set its roomy stage at the Coliseum’s center, forming a square that occupied the space of about two tennis courts. That gave the four members plenty of opportunity to roam and Hetfield used several microphones stationed at various spots, sometimes during the same song.
A mid-show plunge into a few songs from its most recent release, “St. Anger,” was met with mixed reaction. But Metallica also offered a healthy cross-section of its career, ranging from 1983’s macabre “Creeping Death” to the sing – or rather shout – along “Sad But True.”
The first encore served as the show’s high point, featuring Metallica’s most popular (though not its most powerful) songs, including “Nothing Else Matters,” “Master of Puppets,” “One” and “Enter Sandman.” It’s material like that that makes them metal kings – and Sunday’s hot opening-act Godsmack aspires to that level.