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Metallica headlines Las Vegas’ biggest ever metal concert — PHOTOS

Updated March 1, 2022 - 2:36 pm

Turns out that the man who gave gravel-throated voice to “The Unforgiven” can be somewhat forgiving, at least.

Back in May 2017, Metallica frontman James Hetfield told TMZ that he was “a little pissed” that his hometown Raiders were ditching the Bay Area for Las Vegas.

Five years later, bygones were bygones — sort of — as his band headlined the Raiders’ new home on Friday, selling out Allegiant Stadium in the city’s biggest metal concert ever.

“Are you having fun yet?” Hetfield asked the capacity crowd after a seismic “Sad But True,” which rumbled like a pair of tectonic plates engaged in a shoving match. “Well, knock if off!” he bellowed in faux outrage.

But really, what wounds can’t be mended with a little — or in this case, a whole, whole lot — of pyro, a drummer who wags his tongue like a Great Dane on a hot day, maybe a song about getting sizzled, Sausage McMuffin-style, in an electric chair (a crisply delivered “Ride the Lightning.”)

Last time Metallica hit town, in November 2018, they set a concert attendance record at T-Mobile Arena, drawing 20,428 fans.

Friday’s show was far more sizable, a one-off gig that’s the band’s first U.S. concert of the year and one of only three shows they have booked for America in 2022 thus far.

Headlining an NFL stadium is a long way from where the band made its Vegas debut, at Thomas & Mack Arena in June 1986, opening for Ozzy Osbourne.

The base price for that ticket: $14.50.

On Friday, nosebleed seats were going for over $200 a pop on Ticketmaster’s resale site.

The setting suited Metallica well: Allegiant Stadium was built for football, and like that full-contact sport, Metallica gigs are physical, sweaty, and full of dudes slamming into one another (throughout the night, pockets of small mosh pits broke out on the general admission floor).

To further belabor the gridiron analogy, experiencing the band live is akin to taking in a Raiders game: lots of beers, cheers and high-fives to strangers, Modelo tallboys in place of athletic supporters.

The band, which celebrated its 4oth anniversary with a pair of San Francisco shows in December, continues to tour in support of their most recent record, “Hardwired … to Self-Destruct,” though the only cut they played from that album was the locomotive “Moth to Flame,” a song that equates celebrity with addiction.

“This song’s about fame,” Hetfield explained by way of introducing said tune. “I don’t know if anyone in this town knows about that.”

These dudes surely do.

The two-hour, 16-song show chronicled the Metallica’s ascendance into the world’s biggest metal band: it opened with the runaway-train thrash of “Whiplash,” a song as primal as the adrenaline surge resulting from a punch to the jaw, culled from their 1983 debut “Kill ‘Em All” (whose title says it all). It ended with “Enter Sandman,” the lead single from their self-titled fifth record — better know as “The Black Album” — which is the top-selling album of the last 30 years, having moved over 17 million copies.

How did Metallica get here?

By finessing sheer ferocity into radio-friendly ferocity, their latter-day catalog as heavy on the hooks as it is heavy on the heavy.

Watching them command a crowd of tens of thousands in a mammoth venue nowadays, you’d never know they were incubated in a once-underground metal subculture as far away from the mainstream as their catalog is from subtlety.

That’s because in the last four decades, Metallica gradually, steadily took thrash metal to the masses — and even though they’re no longer a thrash band, per see, they can still flex those swollen muscles, as evidenced by a throttling of “Master of Puppets”-era rager “Battery,” which they snarled through at the beginning of their three-song encore.

“Hypnotizing power, crushing all that cower, ” Hetfield sang/spat. “Battery is here to stay.”

Clearly.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram

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