Metallica made their return to live music this Saturday for a virtual concert event in association with the band’s charity foundation, All Within My Hands. In an effort to raise money to prevent global starvation and other charitable causes, the metal legends took to the stage to perform alternative, unheard versions of their most beloved songs, as well as a few quintessential rock covers.
Split in two, the first half of the show was an acoustic set, which gave the audience a stripped-down brand of Metallica’s usual sound. Frontman James Hetfield sat on a wooden stool with an acoustic guitar perched on his knee, his demeanor nonchalant and casually stoic. He was encircled by the band: Kirk Hammett on electric guitar, Lars Ulrich on drums, Robert Trujillo on bass, as well as guests Avi Vinocur playing the mandolin and Henry Salvia on the keys. A jagged, acoustic version of “Blackened,” which the boys premiered in May, debuted live as the show starter. Born from the ashes of the ’80s on Justice For All, the song’s lyrics still apply to the political and social state of the world decades later. Compiled on the surrounding stage walls, fans are given the chance to attend the show virtually; the boys took a moment between tracks to chat to individual audience members from around the world, creating an intimate and highly interactive experience.
Hammett finessed the slide guitar for a cover of Deep Purple’s “When A Blind Man Cries.” An acoustic set meant clearer vocals from Hetfield, whose voice was rich in tone. The addition of Salvia on keyboard created a clean background melody that complimented Hammett’s hearty rock progression and the acoustic rhythm.
Everyone did a guitar swap for “The Unforgiven,” which featured an immaculate intro melody, leading into a powerful storytelling ballad and some intense power chords. In addition to a cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page,” viewers got an unplugged version of “Creeping Death” and “Nothing Else Matters”—plus, a sublime fingerpicking solo by Hetfield that gave the song its dazzlingly somber emotion.
The band was joined by two of their most important guests to date for “All Within My Hands:” Castor Hetfield and Layne Ulrich, James’ and Lars’ sons and musicians in their own right, adding dimension with backing vocals and percussion to the already dynamic track. Hetfield and Hammett teamed up for vocals, while the keyboard effects added a synth, ’80s influence emphasis to the track.
Following a commercial break and a few informative clips from All Within My Hands foundation members, Metallica took back the stage for their electric set, kicking it off with a reworked version of “Disposable Heroes.” “We’re doing it heavy, the acoustic version way,” Hetfield announced. “I was born for dying!” is still the chant that leads into Hammett’s warped solo—playing a guitar resembling his iconic Gibson Flying V, the instrument that recorded all his solos on Kill ‘Em All—but the riff and rhythm is re-worked, with a slower tempo and heavier bassline. “We penetrated the fourth wall on that one,” Ulrich admitted breathlessly.
Ulrich made a pleading joke before “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, confessing the band’s minimal rehearsal of the cover. Nevertheless, Metallica’s version is wickedly spot-on. Hetfield’s voice was almost uncharacteristically deep, while Hammett’s subtle solo between the chorus and second verse seemed to dance intricately around the distorted bassline.
“Wasting My Hate” made an appearance for its first live performance by the band in over 10 years, though the track comes off their 1996 record, Loud. It’s a fun tune inspired by country outlaw and friend Waylon Jennings, with a speedy, catchy rhythm and witty lyrics. Hetfield, Hammett and Trujillo, a vigorous electric trio, gathered together for the instrumental mid-track section during “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” the very picture of live unity. A fan-favorite, “Master of Puppets” was exhilarating and maniacal. “Dedicated to how I’m killing you,” Hetfield sang about the topic of addiction over heavy drums and a frantic tempo.
Arguably their most demanded live performance, “Enter Sandman” is no shocking finale, but its prowess never fails. Nightmarish in theme, with twisting string notes and a distorted sound, the track spirals into a powerful, intense metal ballad that featured one of Hammett’s most mind-bending solos.
“We’re off to never never land!” James Hetfield shouted lyrics written in the spring of ‘91, when Metallica was climbing the ranks of metal music history. In the years since, they’ve secured their place as musical legacies, with a name that will never die and songs heard and unheard, eternally alive in the heart and soul of music.
(Deep Purple cover) When A Blind Man Cries
Now That We’re Dead
(Bob Seger cover) Turn The Page
Nothing Else Matters
All Within My Hands
(The Animals cover) House of The Rising Sun
Wasting My Hate
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Master of Puppets
File Photo: Mauricio Alvarado