Would you drive 524 miles one way to see one of your favorite bands? I would and I did. Metallica is continuing their WorldWired Tour through the U.S. playing indoor arenas. They were making a stop in Charlotte, NC on October 22nd and I was beyond thrilled to receive the approval to cover the show. After hopping in the car and driving up to North Carolina to stay with a friend, photographing the show the next day, and then driving home the day after, I was beyond exhausted. But, it was worth every minute for that experience.
The Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC was the venue that evening and the streets were flooded with metal fans of all ages. Outside the venue even had official Metallica merchandise booth to help alleviate the crowds at the booths inside. The energy was beyond electric. There wasn’t a buzz in the air around the arena, it was a lightning storm. And it’s like this at every Metallica show I’ve attended. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
After checking in at the media entrance I waited with the other photographers to be escorted to our photography area for the evening. My friend Sherri was also there and it was nice to have a familiar face around. Our venue contacts arrived and brought us through the venue to our photo area. We were set against the back wall on one side of the venue as Metallica had a stage sitting in the middle of the arena. I remember them doing a setup like this before when they toured with Godsmack many years ago. But, before Metallica came to the stage, comedian Jim Breuer was there to warm up the crowd.
The comedian from Valley Stream, NY is no stranger to the big stage. After performing his first comedy gig in Clearwater, FL in 1989, he kept himself very active. He was a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” from 1995-1998 and during the 2000s had multiple comedy tours and 4 Comedy Central specials. He’s also very active both on television and movies, while also being a guest on Howard Stern’s radio show multiple times plus hosting his own SiriusXM radio show called “Fridays with Jim Breuer”. Jim is a very proud parent and even lists on his website that he has been F-word free for over 10 years. And most importantly for this night, Jim is a huge metalhead. He even released an album in 2016 titled ‘Songs From the Garage’.
When Jim came out to the stage he explained how he has been friends with the band for a number of years and they asked him to come out on the tour to help warm up the crowd. Jim went through a comedy routine including a hilarious story of how he ended up on Ozzy Osbourne’s private plane stealing his shrimp. The crowd was getting into Jim’s routine and he left to go backstage saying when he came back out Metallica would be ready to come to the stage. It wasn’t too long before Jim came out to do one last crowd warm-up. This time it was getting the crowd to look at the large screens in the venue for some metal karaoke. After a few songs, Jim headed to the back as the crowd waited for Metallica to come to the stage.
Metallica is the metal band everyone knows. Formed back in 1981 and based out of San Francisco, CA, they’ve accomplished so much in their musical career. They released 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, 1 album of covers, 9 Grammy awards, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is the only band to have performed on all 7 continents in the world. Their last 6 albums all hit number 1 and the band has sold over 125 million albums. Is there much more they can do? Well according to Lars Ulrich at the end of the show, “We’re just getting started!” Metallica is James Hetfield (vocals, rhythm guitar), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar), Robert Trujillo (bass), and Lars Ulrich (drums).
When the lights went down the song “The Ecstasy of Gold” started to play and on the screens were film clips from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. Metallica, ran down the aisle right towards the end of the song and got on stage taking their places. The Lords of Summer were ready and they immediately ripped into “Hardwired!” from the latest album ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’. The crowd was on their feet as the band played. The song is one of my favorites and definitely a great way to start the show. They had red and orange lights beamed on them during the song. The lighting switched to bright white when they followed up with “Atlas, Rise!” also from the same album, and another of my favorite songs. Metallica provided a nice change of pace following that with “Seek and Destroy” from their 1983 debut album “Kill ‘Em All”.
James, Kirk, and Robert rotated spots throughout the set giving everyone a chance to see them. Lars being centered stage was on a rotating platform though only turned a few times during the set. You could see the band was having fun on stage, playing side by side, and one time all surrounding Lars’ drum riser and playing together. At one point, Robert was doing a crab crawl while playing his bass and chased Kirk around the stage, down the stairs onto the floor, and back up on the stage again. They were both laughing and smiling the whole time. James interacted with the crowd a lot during the show, referring to the fans multiple times as “Metallica family”. He even called out a number of kids in the crowd showing that Metallica was for all genders, all ages, all races, and all religions.
As for the setlist, it was a great selection of songs from their 10 albums. The variety from “Through The Never”, “The Unforgiven”, “Wherever I May Roam”, and “Sad But True” from the self-titled album, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Fade To Black”, and “Creeping Death” from ‘Ride the Lightning’, and “Motorbreath” from ‘Kill ‘Em All’, there was something for all Metallica fans from hardcore to the newly initiated. And all throughout the songs, there were multiple boxes that acted as movie screens showing a variety of pictures and symbols throughout the songs. My favorite moment was during “Moth Into Flame” from ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’. The band had the boxes showing signs that made it look like the Sunset Strip in California. And while they played a group of drones flew over Lars’ drum riser. It was absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve seen in an indoor arena show.
As they were closing out their set, James asked the crowd if they wanted to hear something heavy and began to play “Sad But True” from their self-titled album. I was a bit confused as I felt there were heavier songs out there than this one. But, hearing it live, I have to agree, that song is HEAVY. Robert’s bass and Lars’ drumbeats thundered through the arena. Kirk’s guitar riffs echoed throughout the stadium. And James’ booming vocals had everyone on their feet and singing along. By far the best live version I ever heard of that song. They followed that up with the infamous “One” from ‘…And Justice For All’, which always sounds amazing and then closed their set with “Master of Puppets”, the title track from the same album. A great performance with the well known white crosses displaying all across the boxes. The band then said goodbye and took their leave from the stage.
But, they were far from done. The band returned for an encore and started off with “Spit Out The Bone” from ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’. I have friends who consider this song to be a “must play” song for any Metallica show. The followed with a beautiful performance of “Nothing Else Matters” from the self-titled album. And finally closed out with the heaviest version I’ve heard of “Enter Sandman” also from the self-titled album. Afterwards, the band took a few bows and then proceeded to throw out tons of guitar picks that were labeled with Charlotte, NC on one side (I was lucky enough to have someone hand me one after the show). As the band walked off the stage, I suddenly saw them running back on stage as Kirk and James were spraying Robert with silly string. James explained that the following day was Robert’s birthday and he had the crowd sing Happy Birthday to him. Lars got on the mic and said how they first came to Charlotte in 1986 and how much they appreciated coming back and how much the fans supported them over their career. And it was then that he said to the fans “We’re just getting started!”
It was an amazing night of Metallica music and the fans left happy. Metallica is band that no fan should ever miss if they come to your town. You will absolutely leave their show smiling, energized, and cranking Metallica in your car on the way back to your destination. I know because that’s exactly how I felt and exactly what I did. And on that 524 mile trek back home the next day, my phone cranked out every Metallica album I could listen to until I got home. That show in Charlotte won’t be forgotten any time soon. Thank you Metallica for such a wonderful and memorable performance.