Battling On

Metal titans Metallica return after 11 years.

Metallica Family 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Metallica Family 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
MetallicaRamat Gan StadiumMay 22
No one can make a crowd go wild like one of the metal world’s most longstanding top guns, especially after an 11-year hiatus – and go wild the crowd did when Metallica’s first chords rocked Ramat Gan Stadium on Saturday night.
Opening with the locale-appropriate “Creeping Death,” from their 1984 album Ride the Lightning (where better to belt about the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt than the Promised Land?), the metal titans from Los Angeles ripped through a series of old favorites mixed with new songs off their latest album, Death Magnetic (2008).
“I know it’s been a while since Metallica has been here,” frontman James Hetfield told the audience after playing radio smash “The Day that Never Comes,” “and I hope things haven’t changed that much. Last time we were here, we knew that Tel Aviv and the area, they liked their music heavy. Is that still true?”
Evidently it was; the transition into bass-thumping classic “Sad but True” (one of several hits off 1991’s informally titled The Black Album) prompted screams of approval and many a devil sign from the fans. Signs reading “Metallica, burn us all!” and “James Hetfield, make me a baby” dotted the crowd.
Opening bands High on Fire and the local Orphaned Land kept the audience warmed up with a mad performance that began at around 6:30 p.m. The band itself came on at 8:50 to raucous cheering that shook the stadium.
After “Creeping Death” in the set came Metallica essentials “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Fade to Black,” and “Harvester of Sorrow.” From there, they plowed into hits from Death Magnetic, including “That was Just Your Life,” “The End of the Line” and the aforementioned “Day.” Other highlights included hot solos from guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo.
UNFORTUNATELY, FEW shows are without technical difficulties; sound trouble hounded some of the initial songs, prompting cries of indignation from the crowd and solidarity-apologies from Hetfield (“I know we’re having some sound problems, but Metallica’s battling on... it sucks when it goes out like that!”).
Still, the energy remained high and the rapport was strong between the rockers and what Hetfield affectionately called “the Metallica family.” This was especially evident once they headed back toward their roots: Applause for 1990 Grammy-winner “One” was thunderous, and 1986 head-banger “Master of Puppets” had hundreds of Israelis thrusting devil horns in the air and screaming “Master!” along with the band. The stage went up in controlled flames for 1988’s “Blackened,” and audience members linked arms for Black Album local favorite “Nothing Else Matters,” swaying with cellphones held high.
This was small potatoes, of course, compared to the pandemonium reserved for what followed, the song without which no Metallica performance would be complete: the legendary “Enter Sandman.” The crowd roared out the lyrics, heads and arms flailed to the familiar riffs, and rabble-rousing “Oh yeah?”s from Hetfield were met with enthusiastic cries of affirmation.
For an encore, the band launched into Queen cover “Stone Cold Crazy,” then went way back with Kill ’Em All classics “Whiplash” (“This is how you’re all gonna feel tomorrow!”) and “Seek and Destroy” – the latter complete with house lights up and audience participation (“You’re gonna give 110 percent of your voice and energy to us!”).
When the music was over, the band members took to the mike to hail the audience, with Hammett shouting a hearty “Shalom!” to the people of Tel Aviv. Drummer Lars Ulrich, however, summed it up best: “Am I the only one who thinks we gotta come here more than once every 11 f***ing years?”