To celebrate the launch of SiriusXM’s Mandatory Metallica channel, the iconic metal quartet shook the walls of Harlem’s hallowed Apollo Theater with an invite-only concert Saturday night (September 21). The group shares little in common with the music that made the building famous—singer/guitarist James Hetfield noted, “I can’t believe they us play this place. It’s so rich with history, and we’re gonna mess it all up.” Yet the venue and band do share a commitment to give back to the communities that made them, and Metallica satisfied the non-negotiable requirement of bringing its A game to upper Manhattan with a squall of sonic thunder.
Despite arenas now being the band’s natural habitat, nothing in its sound, performance or vibrancy was compromised by the theater’s smaller capacity. Metallica walloped the room upon arrival with “Hit the Lights” and pummeled through classics like “Master of Puppets,” “Ride the Lightening,” “Sanitarium,” “Sad But True” and “One” in the first half. That was more than enough to make for a great show, but as if deciding, “Time for minds to be blown,” the band switched into a higher gear.
Giving out marching orders with “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” it pounced with “Blackened,” withdrew slightly for the quieter “Nothing Else Matters” and continued unrelenting with “Enter Sandman,” “Creeping Death,” “Battery” and “Seek and Destroy.” Newer tracks like “Broken, Beat & Scarred” and “The Day That Never Comes” from 2008’s “Death Magnetic” that were included in the set verified that Metallica knows what followers love best: taut jams full of propulsive bass and percussion, with guitar notes that fly like rapid-fire bullets.
Considering that its career exceeds three decades, instead of scaling back on the energy it expels while playing live, the band feeds off of its own excitement while also nurturing itself on the crowd’s thrall. Hetfield kept verbally embracing the crowd, making sure to acknowledge the audience listening to the concert’s satellite broadcast, calling everyone “the Metallica family.”
In return, the crowd of die-hard fans and industry cognoscenti responded like alike. Executives who negotiate million-dollar deals pumped fists and thrashed heads alongside average Joes. No one stood immune in the fist-throwing crowd hollering “Die!” at full volume in anticipation of the bridge to Passover tale “Creeping Death.” And it simply doesn’t get more metal—or Metallica—than that.