Metallica played Belfast for the first time since the eighties this month and I wasn’t going to miss that despite having to fork out £55 and fly home from London. They are the one band that pretty much unites my friends. The metal community may be critical of them at times and how they’ve aged but no-one can deny they know how to put on a show.
I went with my old buddies who I grew up with and it seemed all the metalheads in Norn Iron were there too. The beers flowed, setlists and past gigs were discussed. We managed to miss High On Fire (boo!) and Volbeat (meh) but got decent places to stand stage right. I, obviously, bumped into friends past and everyone was equally pumped to see the Four Horseman in Belfast. No trip to England or down south this time they were actually in our back yard and I felt 16 again. But fuck nostalgia this was all about tonight and as soon The Ecstasy of Gold was cued we got lost in it all.
Soon the intro faded and was replaced with a heartbeat and That Was Just Your Life blew the doors in with lasers peircing the air and circling the Odyssey from the coffin shaped rigging. The End of the Line followed and was equally tight and then a familiar bell rang out and Trujillo fired out the haunting bass to For Whom The Bell Tolls. In quick succession Metallica gave me my pre-gig wish – Fade to Black and Creeping Death back-to-back. There’s nothing like the singalong chorus of ‘Die! Die! Die!’ being rattled out by 14,000 of my Irish brethren.
Broken, Beaten and Scarred may feature some banal self help lyrics but the riffs are pit friendly even when the band are playing in the round. Two cuts off the Black Album follow including the almighty riff that is Sad But True. Amazing. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is, and always will be immense and by this stage this gig is fast rising up my mental best gig list. Kirk nails the solo and when Hetfield shouts “Reach for me Belfast” I can’t help but grin like a moron. One complaint would be that the sound isn’t that loud – usually I have to wear plugs (the result of a drunken rendez-vous with a PA stack at a Tool gig in 2006) but had to take them out to really get the volume.
The pyro for One is a brilliant spectacle and there’s nothing like the sudden warmth you feel on your your face as it goes off and Lars Ulrich is running round whipping up the crowd. A mass singalong of riffs and lyrics ensues as Metallica show you why they are still the biggest metal band in the world: Master – Blackened – Nothing Else Matters – Sandman. Beat that.
They piss off for a quick breather before a three song encore which rounds off the best set I could ask for. Tonight’s cover is Budgie’s Breadfan (see above) followed by the song that started thrash, Whiplash. The lights come up for Seek & Destroy and we are rained on by black Metallica beachballs which the band helpfully boot into the crowd. I’ve lost my voice by the end and the boys are all smiles. Definitely time for another pint. Hetfield promises they’ll be back sooner rather later but they’ll have a hell of a challenge beating tonight’s effort. We’ll be there if and when they do.