No disrespect to any other act who hit the stage on the second day (May 9) of the Rock in Rio USA festival in Las Vegas, but it was all about headliner Metallica from the moment the gates opened at 3 p.m.
Fans filtered in with a seemingly endless stream of the heavy metal band’s T-shirts until the act launched its raucous set at 11:45 p.m. with videos of AC/DC‘s “Long Way to the Top” and Ennio Morricone‘s “The Ecstasy of Gold,” from the 1966 film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
It was evident that Metallica frontman James Hetfield was Saturday’s main attraction, as the sprawling festival grounds were swarmed by a significant uptick in fans on yet another chilly Vegas night on day two. The amount of Metallica-themed gear that adorned the thousands of attendees was staggering, but also expected given the band’s immense popularity.
To be clear, it’s not that the preceding acts were subpar by any stretch of the imagination. Deftones could have headlined any other night as the rock band’s 8:30 p.m. set thrived at the Mercedes Benz stage and attracted a healthy crowd that would have rivaled just about any audience from day 1. Lead vocalist and contributing guitarist Chino Moreno held court as the group rumbled through its set with standouts including 1995’s “Engine No. 9” and “Bloody Cape” off of the group’s self-titled 2003 album.
Mother Nature attempted to shed her tears on the valley late in the evening, but Linkin Park‘s energetic session caused the weather to spare the crowd as members Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda took turns underneath the spotlight. The band churned through nearly two decades of music that had festival-goers from the EDM stage dance their way to the front of the stage with their glow sticks wavering in the crisp desert breeze.
Bennington’s vocals were as dynamic as ever on songs including “One Step Closer,” “What I’ve Done” and “Waiting For The End.” Shinoda’s hip-hop style delivery was present as he punched in with “In The End” and the popular “Remember the Name” from his 2005 side project Fort Minor.
But it all set the stage for the mighty Metallica, who grabs the audience by the throat and never let up. With a sea of fans stretched across the festival grounds and a select group of fans brought on stage to add to the ambiance, Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo and Kirk Hammett emerged on stage and roared directly into “Fuel” from the band’s 1997 album, ReLoad. From there, the gloves were off as a fans moshed out to classics including “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and “Unforgiven.”
As always, Hammett annihilated his guitar solos and Hetfield’s signature vocals were as powerful as they were when the band hit the scene more than 30 years ago. Social media lit up with praise as the metal band roared and filled up the festival grounds with its sound. A YouTube user stationed three miles from the festival grounds posted a video later in the evening demonstrated just how loud the band was. The sound system was simply no match for Metallica on this night as the band took the enormous speakers to task with the rumbling drums of their latest single “Lords of Summer.”
Not that it was necessary, but mid-performance, Hetfield challenged the raging crowd to wake up and sent them into a tizzy with another wave of cult classics including “Sad But True” and “One.” The 51-year-old’s tattooed arms flexed on his axe from underneath his T-shirt and vest while the rest of the band kept up a frenzied pace that would have worn out more than a few of today’s younger bands.
By the time the band got to the familiar guitar riff from “Enter Sandman,” it was clear that the passionate crowd wasn’t going to be pounded into submission by the two-hour session. Just when they thought it was over and turned to the exit, the band returned for an encore that was capped off by “Seek & Destroy” from its 1983 debut album.
At 2 a.m. it was over as more than a few fans groaned despite being sweaty from their 120-minute workout. It’s been seven years since the band dropped its last album, Death Magnetic.
Clearly, a new album cannot come soon enough.