Who better to break in Minneapolis’s new football stadium than the band that gave us “Damage, Inc.?”
Also the group that played the Metrodome more than any other rock act (three times), heavy-metal mainstays Metallica took the Dome’s glitzier, pricier replacement U.S. Bank Stadium for a test drive on Saturday night using the same stage that country-music hunk Luke Bryan performed on the night before.
No offense to young Bryan, but it felt like the big boys had taken over and pushed the limits of the new venue to the extreme Saturday.
About 50,000 fans — 4,000 more than the previous night — rammed their way through the slightly improved security lines and concourse logjams to bang their heads at Metallica’s one and only concert this summer, an instantly sold-out affair that also turned into the Twin Cities’ biggest concert of the year. The band went all out for the event, too, setting up a special pop-up shop for the weekend across downtown in the Warehouse District and talking to local journalists before the show.
“This place looks amazing from our vantage point,” drummer Lars Ulrich said in a locker room before showtime. “I got goose bumps looking at those 50,000 purple seats and knowing the history the color purple has in this town.”
Saturday’s big gig could go down as the loudest show of the year, too. Fortunately, louder was somehow better for the gargantuan football palace’s still-evolving acoustics.
Opening band Volbeat played to a lot of empty purple seats but still did not suffer the same bouncing echo that plagued Friday’s performances. By the time Avenged Sevenfold took the stage, most of the sold-out crowd was in place, including many black-T-shirted teens there more to see the middle-slot band — and maybe to see their first-ever Metallica show in the process (since the headliners’ last time in town was 2009).
A7X frontman M. Shadows seemed less excited about inaugurating the stadium than he did getting to open for Metallica — “one of the few bands of our genre big enough to fill a place like this.”
Even going back to the decrepit Dome — where it nearly stole the show on the Monsters of Rock Tour in 1988 as an opening band — Metallica has long been able to fill mega-sized venues like this with more than just bodies. The awesomeness of the new stadium only seemed to amplify the band’s ability to work a giant crowd into a full-tilt frenzy.
A dual sensation of goose bumps and rattling rib cages ran through the crowd as the band tore through “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” for its opening twofer, both off 1985’s “Ride the Lightning,” the album the band promoted its first time in town at First Avenue.
“We’re here to test this place with full-volume,” frontman James Hetfield warned (belatedly), as the quartet launched into two ’90s tunes, “Fuel” and “King Nothing.”
Saturday’s show was also something of a test for Metallica, whose members entered their 50s and have scaled back on touring since 2009. Playing two-hour Metallica sets isn’t for the weak and timid, although the crusty “Black Album” singles “The Unforgiven” and “Sad But True” both sounded as tired as ever.
The band itself showed no sign of fatigue, though, as the set blazed on. Bassist Rob Trujillo did his usual ultra-enthusiastic apelike strutting all over the big stage (part time in a Vikings jersey), and Ulrich kept the rhythms jack-hammering with impressive precision. Guitarist Kirk Hammett’s solos in the harrowing classics “One” and “Fade to Black” came through crystal-clear, too.
Two of the best moments of the night came via the two least-expected tunes: “Hard-wired,” the ferocious first single from the band’s long-awaited new album, which kicked off the encore; and “Leper Messiah,” an ’80s oldie that won in fan requests online.
As fans joyously thrashed in unison to the latter tune, it brought back uncanny echoes of the metal vets’ mighty Dome set in ’88 — but thankfully with fewer actual echoes.
Here’s the full Metallica set list from Saturday’s concert: