Starting off the festivities were Volbeat. Oddly enough, they opened for Metallica the last time I saw them in 2009, so it was a bit of a throwback moment. While we're on the subject of the first time, I went into that first show not knowing a thing about Volbeat, but here we were eight years later and I go in knowing much more about them and loving their music a lot more now. Comparing the reception the band received this time to last time, it was like night and day. The first time, hardly anyone knew who they were, but since they've reached the big time now and have been receiving tons of radio play and success over the last few years, the reception was so much bigger this time. As they entered the stage, they kicked things off with back-to-back new songs, which were "The Devil's Bleeding Crown" and "Seal The Deal". During the first half of the set, they wore Blue Jays jerseys with their respective last names on the backs of each. Michael Poulsen had some fun by impersonating Elvis Presley before the band went into "Sad Man's Tongue", which featured pictures of Johnny Cash on the video screens. Other songs that were performed were "Lola Montez", "16 Dollars", "Black Rose" and "Dead But Rising". What was cool about Jon Larsen's drum kit was that his bass drums heads were the Jaws poster. I know that Poulsen's vocals are polarizing because everyone I talk to that doesn't like Volbeat, says that they feel the vocals ruin the music, but I'm in the majority of people that love them, but I will say that it took me a little bit to get there when I first heard them. Their set closed with "Still Counting". A great set to start off a monumental metal night.
Next up was Avenged Sevenfold, who I've only seen once before at Mayhem Fest 2014. Before the band came out on stage "Back In Black" played to warm up the crowd. The band then entered the stage one by one and kicked into "The Stage" to start things off. At one point, M. Shadows even acknowledged the Iron Maiden show from the previous day by asking who went to the show and called this weekend "the greatest weekend ever for heavy metal in Toronto". They kicked into "Hail To The King" right after. With the addition of pyro, which were flame spurts, their set seemed more like a headliner than an opener. When was the last time you heard of an opening act using pyro? The guitar playing between Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance was impressive. Drummer Brooks Wackerman got a chance in the spotlight with a drum solo. Other songs the band touched on included "Afterlife", "Almost Easy", "Buried Alive" and "God Damn", but a couple of my favourite moments were "Nightmare" and "Bat Country". To close off their set, they treated the fans with a classic fan-favourite, which was "Unholy Confessions", during which Vengeance came out sporting a Blue Jays jersey.
Now it was time for the moment we've all been waiting for: Metallica! As "It's A Long Way To The Top" played to let the crowd know that showtime was imminent, the upper section all did the wave, which was awesome to see. Words could not describe the chills that I, and I'm sure everyone else in the building, got as "Ecstacy Of Gold" played building up the anticipation for Metallica's entrance to the stage. The set then began with "Hardwired", followed by "Atlas, Rise!". The entire set was fan-favourite after fan-favourite. After James Hetfield's welcome speech, they slammed into "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and got fists pounding and heads banging furiously. The heat was now about to get turned up. As Hetfield screamed the famous words "GIMME FUEL, GIMME FIRE, GIMME THAT WHICH I DESIRE!" and the band launched into "Fuel", flames burst out from either side of the stage a few times throughout the song. I can only imagine the heat the people standing next to the flames felt during those moments. Things then slowed down but remained heavy as we were treated to "The Unforgiven" next.
One of my favourite moments of the show was during "Now That We're Dead", which was the drum-corps part where all four of them got to play what looked like giant tamboras for a couple of minutes. It also happens to be one of Hetfield's favourite moments as he stated in an interview. A couple of other Hardwired...To Self-Destruct moments we were treated to included "Halo On Fire" and "Moth Into Flame". The latter had a flame running back and forth across the stage for the entire duration. You just had to see the look on my face when I heard the opening notes to "Wherever I May Roam". It was the first time I got to hear this song live because this was the song that started it all for me. It made me become a Metallica fan and it broke me into a metalhead back in June 2004. One of the many highlights was when Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo had their chance to shine for a bit. Kirk played the main riff to "I Disappear", followed by Rob playing "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)", paying tribute to Cliff Burton, which featured a classic video clip of Cliff playing on the center screen. Everyone got heavy goosebumps during this moment. R.I.P. Cliff. The band stayed on Kill 'Em All and followed this moment with "Hit The Lights". The fan favourites kept coming as we then got treated to "Sad But True", "One", "Master Of Puppets and "Fade To Black".
"Seek & Destroy" closed off the main set. The video screen featured an old ticket stub from Metallica's first ever show in Toronto in 1985 on the Ride The Lightning tour with W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint at the Concert Hall. I'm sure all the old-school fans who were in attendance at this show who also attended that very first show all felt a huge sense of nostalgia seeing that ticket stub. Before the song started, the band gave some acknowledgement to some of the youngsters in the front row, with Hetfield chatting with a 13-year-old who was at the show with his dad, and Lars bringing up a little kid from the snakepit to sit on the drums and do the count-off into the song. Lucky kids! As we entered the encore, we got one more round of thrash with "Blackened", then it was time to take the mood of the show down a few notches as the band went into "Nothing Else Matters". Lighters and cellphones filled the air during the song and the night was closed off with "Enter Sandman". As each member was saying their individual farewells, Lars got on the mic and mentioned some of the places they've played in Toronto over the last 32 years of coming here like Maple Leaf Gardens, CNE Stadium, Air Canada Centre and he even acknowledged their first Toronto show at the Concert Hall. What an amazing night of metal and what a way to close out Toronto's huge metal weekend. We all hope that Metallica doesn't take another eight years to come back to Toronto.
James Hetfield - Lead vocals & guitars
Lars Ulrich - Drums
Kirk Hammett - Lead guitars & vocals
Rob Trujillo - Bass & vocals
Label: Blackened Recordings
M. Shadows - Vocals
Synyster Gates - Lead guitars
Zacky Vengeance - Rhythm guitars
Johnny Christ - Bass
Brooks Wackerman - Drums
Label: Capitol Records
Michael Poulsen - Vocals & guitars
Rob Caggiano - Lead guitars
Kaspar Boye Larsen - Bass
Jon Larsen - Drums
Label: Universal Music