Metallica Plays Intimate Charity Gig in Toronto

Metallica perform at The Opera House
Jeff Yeager/Metallica/Getty Images

Metallica perform at The Opera House on Nov. 29, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 

Metallica, whose new album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, played a hot-ticket club show in Toronto Tuesday night (Nov. 29) at the 950-capacity Opera House, with all proceeds from ticket sales (and donations of non-perishable goods) going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

The band’s fan club got first crack at winning a personal code allowing the purchase of a pair of $25 CAD ($18.64 USD) tickets; the remainder went on sale for $100. The show-credit-card-and-enter-venue protocol largely locked out scalpers, with only a handful of tickets ending up on resale sites.

“We can’t get enough of that hot, sweaty old-school small show vibe,” the band wrote in the original Nov. 21 announcement for the Opera House show. The response on social media was incredulous. Metallica at the Opera House?

“At first we thought it was Oprah’s house. We’ll play there,” joked frontman James Hetfield during the show. “Are you Oprah? Are you Oprah?” Winfrey’s home would be more in keeping with the size of venue Metallica — which has sold 110 million albums globally — is used to playing. After all, the band’s stage for their 2013 Through The Never concert film was 200x60 feet with trap doors and risers.

But Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Robert Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich were just as killer operating as four guys on a plain stage adorned with nothing but the Opera House’s ornate archway -- and some effective lights. And who needs pyro and a giant Lady Justice statue when you have a catalog of intense metal fist-pumpers and mesmerizing musicianship?

For just under two hours, they covered the early part of their 35-year career, dating back to 1983’s debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All; 1984’s Ride the Lightning; 1986’s Master of Puppets; 1988’s …And Justice for All; 1991’s Metallica; plus covers from 1998’s Garage Inc. and a 1988 b-side -- and, of course, the new album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct.

“Have you got the album?” asked Hetfield. “The album,” he said again, holding his hands to the size of a vinyl LP.  “The album?” adjusting to the CD size, and then with a smile, “the album,” using his finger to illustrate a phone keypad. “As long as you’re listening to it, we appreciate it. After 35 years, we’re still making some music that we like to listen to and it sounds like you do too.”

The atmosphere inside was electric. The upper balcony filled with industry types just as excited as the black-clad, mostly male presence that filled every inch of the Opera House. Hetfield was ever engaging, encouraging jumping up and down, hand-claps, “heys” and air-punches.

“You better look out Toronto, Metallica is in a very good mood. How about you? It’s good to see you again. It’s been a little while. Metallica is back on the radar again. We’ve got a new album out and all that fun stuff…We’ve come here to play some heavy songs, do you want heavy? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. DO YOU WANT HEAVY, TORONTO? METALLICA GIVES YOU HEAVY,” he said in his best deep growl.

And heavy it was. Heavy enough to evoke the same kind of reaction their stadium and arena shows do -- a mini mosh pit and a handful of body surfers.

It ended with a three-song encore -- the Irish traditional “Whiskey in the Jar,” the new “Hardwired” and the classic “Seek & Destroy.” All four members took turns saying something at the mic, and held up a Metallica-adapted version of the Canadian flag, which they draped on the drum kit and posed with for a photograph with the crowd behind them. They also tossed dozens of guitar picks into the crowd, some reaching as high as the balcony. A small after-party was held at The Fifth, a local restaurant. 

The band is in town for a couple of days to talk to media for the new album, and at soundcheck, they received a plaque for the platinum certification (80,000 units) of the new album from the Warner Music Canada team. They also met the tribute band Sandman, to whom the band apologized back in January after a “very overzealous attorney” sent them a cease and desist without their knowledge.

Set list

Breadfan (Budgie cover)
Creeping Death
Sad But True
Fade to Black
Atlas, Rise!
Harvester of Sorrow
Moth Into Flame
Master of Puppets
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Enter Sandman


Whiskey in the Jar (Irish traditional cover)
Seek & Destroy