TAMPA — Metallica has been unleashing its death "n' destruction brigade for almost three decades, which is ironic for a band obsessed with, well, death "n' destruction. The thrash-metal leviathans have lost members due to defection and tragedy. They've waged battles both legal and psychological. They dig cyanide.
And yet, at their raging, roiling core, the San Francisco-based four are survivors, hellbent on living life loud and fast — but living nonetheless.
So although the band's stage in the middle of the St. Pete Times Forum Saturday was lit with rigs encased in giant coffins, the message Metallica growled to a sold-out crowd of 20,351 was one of resilience.
Everyone gets out of here alive … if desperate for a hearing specialist.
Touring behind latest album Death Magnetic, Metallica excelled at ferocity, the ear-meltier the better. Drummer Lars Ulrich was a master of the Uzi beat, and singer James Hetfield, stalking to various microphones so everyone could get a good look at his creepiness was like a carnival barker of the damned.
"Tampa," the 46-year-old Hetfield said, "we are here to kick your a--."
Opening with the new That Was Just Your Life, the tireless band played amidst a swirl of purple, green and red lasers. Chaos, but cool. Then the lights came up, and there they were — and when I say "they," I mean the shirtless moshers beating the tar out of each other … and then high-fiving afterward.
For The End of the Line, bassist Robert Trujillo and guitarist Kirk Hammett took crouched positions, as if firing on the enemy. The band dusted off 1991's intense Through the Never. They hit the pyro button for One, which featured a ringing, and downright beautiful, solo from Hammett.
Metallica showed its love for fans by bludgeoning them for more than two hours: the thunderous Sad but True, the frenzied All Nightmare Long.
For a band that lives off Satan-approved sludge, the sound was clear and ringing. And so was the crowd, chanting along to gloomy goodies Master of Puppets, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman," happy to be alive.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.