It’s an obvious pick, but it’s a correct one. With only the surprisingly strong new tune “The Lords of Summer” coming from a time after 1991, Metallica’s “By Request” setlist felt like watching Iron Maiden on their Maiden England tour in 2012: a laundry list of classics played impeccably, but with the extra muscular power that Metallica has always held as one of its greatest weapons. That’s a vibe the By Request idea admittedly plays to; in fact, the setlist so heavily favored the first four ‘Tallica records that an amused James Hetfield had to ask the crowd, “You guys like the old songs, huh?”
But more importantly, all of the classic songs in the world won’t matter if the band playing them isn’t up to snuff – and Metallica truly rose to the occasion. The combination of tightness, savagery and melodic intricacy that Metallica mastered on its 80’s material spilled forth with a perfectionist’s touch that bands half their age would be hard-pressed to match, and given the looseness they’ve played with in some recent years, that’s especially impressive. “The Four Horsemen” was the audience choice winner near closing time (over “Fight Fire with Fire” and a greatly-overmatched “Fuel”), and judging from its effortless flow within the set, it was as if playing their most intricate material for nearly three hours brought out the very best in all four members. And even after seeing both installments of Orion Music & More and the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium in 2011, Heavy Montreal featured the best sound mix Metallica has had in years as well. Coupled with Hetfield deviating from his usual script with key ad-libs and the band playing with a rare urgency, this wasn’t just the best show of Heavy Montreal, but quite possibly the best metal show I’ve personally seen since that very same Iron Maiden tour a couple years back. A flawless, world-class performance.
[photo: Tim Snow, Evenko]