Metallica fans rise to the group's onstage energy during the band's first area show in four years. (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)
"What don't kill ya, makes ya more strong," Metallica front man James Hetfield snarled during the band's sold-out show at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night.
Cliched though it may be, the band made good on the sentiment with a relentless, thundering run-through of Metallica hits, new and old.
After nearly imploding earlier this decade due to the infighting -- the large, coffin-shaped lighting rigs that hung above the stage were a handy reminder of the band's near-demise -- Metallica proved its tenacity with a grand performance that reinforced its standing as one of America's premier metal gods.
On a mammoth stage at the center of the arena, Metallica pounded out not only a technically masterful show, but a visually dynamic one as well. Band members roamed around the massive stage, with Hetfield visiting any one of eight microphone stands around the rectangular configuration, while bassist Robert Trujillo kept low to the ground, creeping around the stage like a spider. Guitarist Kirk Hammett unleashed gnarly solos and drummer Lars Ulrich frequently stood up at his drum kit, like he did while hammering out the finale to "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
The band had plenty of tricks up its sleeve for the 20,082 fans. A laser display worthy of Pink Floyd greeted opener "That Was Your Life," while bursts of pyro erupted during the intro to "One."
Oddly, fans responded by throwing clothes on stage, resulting in a light chiding from Hetfield. "This is not Goodwill up here," he joked.
The two-hour, 10-minute show -- Metallica's first area show in more than four years -- included a healthy smattering of material from the band's 2008 album "Death Magnetic," the best of which, "The Day That Never Comes," in particular, fit squarely alongside the band's classics. "Cyanide" could have gone, however, and no one would have minded.
"The Day That Never Ends" came in a late-show stretch that saw the band hitting its stride, and the show peaked with a masterful, electrifying rendition of "Master of Puppets."
The show closed with a tribute to the Metallica's live mixer Paul Owen, who mixed his final show on Tuesday after 22 years with the group. Metallica finished with "Seek and Destroy," played with the house lights up and as black Metallica beach balls rained from the ceiling.
It's perhaps a bit early to be talking about shows of the year, being that we're only two weeks into 2009. But Tuesday's show set the bar pretty high for the months to come, and don't be surprised if fans are still talking about it come December.
You can reach Adam Graham at (313) 222-2284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Louis Arena