Last century, The Clash sang “the theory of the hour, anger can be power and you know that you can use it.” In the new millennium, metal monsters Metallica have taken that message to heart and unleashed their full fury upon a packed America West Arena crowd for the first North American date of the “Madly in Anger with the World” Tour.
Opening their set with “Blackened,” the four-piece group lit into their instruments and didn't let up for a solid two hours, counting encores.
A spartan stage at the center of the arena consisted of merely two risers, but what it lacked in looks it made up for in function. Scattered around its perimeter and on the tiers were microphone stands allowing lead vocalist James Hetfield to sing from various positions in front of different parts of the audience. A circular center section rotated slowly allowing drummer Lars Ulrich to play in front of the crush of fans that completely surrounded the stage.
“I was right in front, but I only lasted for the first four songs and then I had to get out,” said Robert Stolt, 30, of Phoenix. “It was too intense.”
Metallica has logged nearly 20 years as the top dog in the metal world and showed why with a set drawing from throughout their career. Highlights included “Harvester of Sorrow,” “King Nothing” and a brutal set closer in “Battery.”
The group's new album, “St. Anger,” was represented by “Frantic.” Though the general consensus among fans seems to be that the disc is one of the band's lesser efforts, one East Valley man prefers it.
“I like the new stuff better than the old,” said Ken Wells, 52, of Fountain Hills. “It's a good fit for me.”
While the initial set was torridly paced, it was surprisingly short. Metallica made up for that with a long first encore that included “Master of Puppets.”
New bassist Robert Trujillo did a fine job holding down the low end, but the man he replaced was not forgotten by the faithful — especially in the Valley.
“I miss Jason Newsted,” said Bradley Craig, 47, of Phoenix. “He brought something really special to the band, just like he did when he was playing with Flotsam and Jetsam here in town. He really has a way of getting the crowd into the show.”
The band's second encore of “One” was predictable, but no less powerful for it and the predominantly male audience responded as they had all night with plenty of air guitar, air drums and the ubiquitous devil's horns hand signs.
Openers Godsmack are releasing an unplugged album in two weeks, but wisely stuck to electric material in their opening slot.