Turns out one with very mixed results, though the jury is still out and to be fair, it’s a football stadium first and foremost. But we did learn one thing- louder is definitely better.
Metallica headlined the very first rock show at the new US Bank Stadium, in front of over 50,000 (most in black t-shirts) and brought along openers Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold.
The sound mix of all three bands didn’t have a lot of subtlety, so all seemed to just turn things up and let it fly, to better results than the previous night’s Luke Bryan concert. Metallica, especially was loud and up front with their mix, leading residents over a mile away to post on social media that they could hear the show in their homes, over a mile away.
Danish hard rockers Volbeat got things started two hours after doors opening, with a 45min set of their unique mix of rock, metal and rockabilly, in support of sixth studio album, Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie (on Republic/Universal), sealing the deal in the process, to be the first rock band to play in the mammoth structure.
While the swelling crowd on the floor had no problem seeing the band, the combination of early evening sunbeams shining in, and pumped-in dry ice fog, made the band hard to see from elsewhere in the stadium, for the majority of their set.
“Thank you for showing up early”, singer Michael Poulsen said before playing a verse from Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’, which quickly morphed into the similar sounding ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’. “It’s been a honor- please, please stay, there’s gonna be two other bands”, Poulsen joked before their finale of “Still Counting’, a 2012 song that topped Billboard’s Rock Chart when released.
Avenged Sevenfold was already familiar to the 1,500 or so that managed to get into their free show at First Avenue two nights prior, properly warming up ex-Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman, for the stadium-sized madness to come.
The California band seemed returned to form, with singer M. Shadows stalking the stage from end to end, twin guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates (probably not their real names) playing effectively off each other, and Wackerman and bassist Johnny Christ holding down the bottom end.
‘God Hates Us’ was played for the first time in four years, ‘Bat Country’ got even the most casual fan interested, and the set-closing ‘Unholy Confessions’ was preluded by Shadows screaming, “we got a little bit left for you!”.
In the most timelessly cool fashion, Metallica took to the stage after the intro music of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ (which the Vikings use constantly) and clip from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, scored by the great Ennio Morricone.
Opening with the 1984 classic ‘Creeping Death’, the foursome went immediately for the throat, with the towering backdrop becoming a large multi-panel digital screen, often showing each of the four members, teeth grit, scowling, and hard at work.
With such a large stage, singer James Hetfield had multiple vocal mics positioned in the middle, on each side, and a few more in front of the extended catwalk area that went partially into the crowd (or Snakepit as they call it).
The 140 min. set was mostly hit-filled, which was more than all right with the now-rabid audience and ideal for a one-off show such as this one. ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’ kept momentum at breakneck, then ‘Fuel’ threw the throttle even higher. “We are here to break this place in properly, with some volume not only up here, but out there", Hetfield said—truer words were never spoken.
‘Leper Messiah’, a fan-selected song for the setlist sounded fresh, despite being thirty years old, and led into the first of two short solos (amusingly called “doodles” on the setlist) from guitarist Kirk Hammett. Hetfield would forget some of the song’s lyrics, but eventually catch himself seven songs later (“it’s never too late”), and sang the missing words to make up for it.
‘One’ remains an eight-minute epic, taken to a different level when stadium-sized, with lasers firing in all directions amid an animated wartime intro for the song. After asking how many in attendance had seen them at First Avenue in 1985, a blistering ‘Seek and Destroy’ closed the main set, with Hetfield ad-libbing the opening line as “We're scanning the scene in Minneapolis tonight”.
The faithful were rewarded with a four-song encore that began with the first live performance of new thrashy single, ‘Hardwired’, from their tenth studio album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, due out Nov. 18 on the band’s own Blackened Recordings, as screens flashed macabre facial expressions overlaid on each of the band members.
‘Whiskey in the Jar’ reminded Hetfield of late bassist Cliff Burton, saying “I know he’d be bouncing out there, if he was with you” and finale ‘Enter Sandman’ brought hundreds of black, logo-emblazoned beach balls raining down on the crowd, followed by an impressive array of indoor fireworks to end the show.
A fitting end to a very loud evening, but loud is what Metallica does best, being perhaps the best there is at it.
Metallica at US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis (20 Aug 2016)