Metallica normally play massive stadiums, arenas, and festival grounds, where they seem genuinely larger than life and use pyrotechnics and get a sea of people so amped that the crowd even sings along to Kirk Hammett's guitar solos. Sometimes they scale it down, like when they played the Apollo Theater in 2013. On Tuesday night (9/27), just three days after playing the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, they did a small show in NYC once again, but this time at Webster Hall. It was their first club show in NYC in god knows how long.

At their usual grandiose shows, they don't feel anything like a relatable rock band. That's not a bad thing at all, it's just that they come off as giants who really do seem inhuman. It's easy to forget that you're actually just watching four people play guitar, bass, and drums, and that they aren't literally supernatural beings. But at Webster Hall on Tuesday, it really just felt like watching four dudes rock out, and that's a pretty incredible thing to witness when you consider three of them wrote and recorded "Master of Puppets" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Seek and Destroy" and "Battery" and "Fade to Black," all of which were played.

The show began with James Hetfield saying "Before we get started..." and then going right into their cover of Budgie's "Breadfan." The packed Webster Hall was screaming already, James was grinning, and it couldn't have been clearer that this was gonna be a special show. Metallica are still impossibly tight -- all the rhythms are bold and headbang-ready, all the solos are screaming, even the mediocre songs sound badass. That's especially true when they seamlessly segue those songs into "Battery," which is exactly what they did to Black Album cut "Holier Than Thou."

The setlist was sprinkled with a good amount of classics, but Metallica are also about to release a new album, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct -- their eleventh total, and first since 2008 -- so they played the couple songs they've released off that too. Somewhere in the middle of the set they played recent single "Moth Into Flame," a headbanger that's honestly pretty good as far as modern Metallica songs go, which they hadn't played live before. In the encore they played the three-minute "Hardwired," the first real-deal thrash ripper they've released in forever, and without the questionable drum production of the recorded version, that song was actually pretty undeniable live. It's tough to know what to really want from new Metallica music. If they evolve, we miss their classic sound, but if they give us that sound, we complain that they're rehashing a style they already mastered. The stakes are high for a band like Metallica, but it's just fun to watch them rock out to a thrasher like "Hardwired." So in a live setting, I had no complaints. Also, other than those two songs off the new album, they didn't play anything from after Black Album. No complaints about that either.

The show fell on the 30th anniversary of Cliff Burton's death, and in honor of him, they offered up an emotional rendition of "Orion," after which James shouted out their former bass player. They followed that one with "One," another song that's always high on emotions, and the two made for a chilling back-to-back. It was also a nice quiet before the storm, the storm being "Master of Puppets" into "For Whom the Bell Tolls" into "Enter Sandman," the trio of songs that closed their pre-encore set.

Lars said at the end of the night that Metallica would be returning to the area in 2017 "on the other side of the river, maybe somewhere outside." (MetLife Stadium?) Stay tuned for that, and stay tuned for the new album to drop on November 18. Pictures of the Webster Hall show are in the gallery above. Setlist below.


Metallica @ Webster Hall - 9/27/16 Setlist
Holier Than Thou
Harvester of Sorrow
Fade to Black
Moth Into Flame
Sad But True
Master of Puppets
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Enter Sandman

Whiskey in the Jar
Seek & Destroy

photos by P Squared

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