Scotiabank Place, Ottawa - November 3, 2009

DENIS ARMSTRONG - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:30 AM ET

OTTAWA - A record crowd for a Scotiabank Place concert, just over 19,100 fans, got metallicized for Metallica.

The superstar band that made metal mainstream, Metallica has been on their Death Magnetic tour for a full year now, and judging by their ebullient performance last night, they showed no signs of being done with it just yet.

Security was just about as high as expectations, as Ennio Morricone's haunting theme The Ecstacy of Gold signalled that things were about to get a whole lot louder around a massive square stage at centre ice -- with no less than eight microphones on the perimeter and canopied by eight steel coffins like the one found on the cover of their 2008 album Death Magnetic.

It was up to drummer Lars Ulrich to kick things off in the dark with a throbbing adrenaline rush of This Is Just Your Life and the jackhammer rhythm of The End of the Line.

Remarkably, the sound was so thunderously loud yet clear, it made the whole arena shake, yet you could hear every note.

"We hope you feel bad," singer James Hetfield said while pointing a threatening finger at the audience, "because we want to make you feel good by the end of the show."

That was a promise he meant to keep.

Like them or not, after nearly 30 years, Metallica is one very, very good band, and have nine Grammies to prove it.

Not the kind of rocker to take it easy or fall back on rock music cliches, Hetfield pulled triple-duty, providing growling vocal-firepower while throttling power chords out of his flying-V rhythm guitar. When he wasn't being menacing behind the guitar, a healthy Hetfield was a gracious and chatty host, lavishing repeated thanks and affection on the crowd and lay as much energy on them as 19,100 fans screaming till they were nearly hoarse could take.

Meanwhile, Ulrich was also never far from the centre of attention, playing relentlessly with mechanical precision, often in sync with lead guitarist Rick Hammett. The spiritual core of the concert was ultimately Ulrich, who dictated the course and driving tone of the show.

Like Hetfield, he too used any downtime to leave his drumkit to clown with the fans surrounding the stage.

Industrial-sized coffins bolstered with military-scale laser lighting dangled precariously low as the boys cranked up the volume on Broken, Beat and Scarred and cranked up the beat for Cyanide.

This was their lead-up to the heaviest part of the set, when the band upped the frenzy with long instrumental passes and exquisite solos and a pretty dazzling flame show blasting down on centrestage on The End of the Line, My Apocalypse, The Day That Never Comes, a Hammett guitar solo before the classic Master of Puppets and Enter Sandman -- all that before an encore cover of The Misfits' Die, Die, My Darling, as black balloons fell from the rafters and descended upon the fans on the floor.

Raw, slick, aggressive and full of testosterone, it was everything you'd expect a Metallica gig to be.

Volbeat and Lamb of God opened.


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