Live: Metallica at the Newark Prudential Center, With Set-List Bonus

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photos of Metallica, a few nights earlier at the Nassau Coliseum, by David Atlas

Metallica
Newark Prudential Center
Saturday, January 31

Metallica's Death Magnetic was supposed to be the band's return to its thrash glory days; it turned out to be much better than that, to my ear, a fusion of the precise, staccato riffing of yore with the heavy, bluesy groove of the '90s albums. Saturday night's live set, the first of two shows closing out the band's North American tour, was a slightly more assertive demonstration of that old-is-new philosophy, featuring two or three songs from each of the first five albums, six from the new one, and nothing from Load, ReLoad or St. Anger. Frontman James Hetfield made the connection explicit, saying from the stage, "You know what goes really well with the new stuff? The old stuff." And he was right. The band barreled through songs old and new, tweaking older arrangements from time to time to bring them in line with who they were now, as players. The intricate "And Justice For All," fueled by Robert Trujillo's massive bottom end and Lars Ulrich's loose drumming, became much more fluid than on record, with Hetfield and Kirk Hammett's guitars circling each other warily, like boxers.

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There were no video screens or other trickery, just some impressive multicolored towers of flame and the band's own unflagging energy; some songs were even faster than their studio versions. Playing in the round (even Ulrich's drum kit rotated to face different sides of the audience throughout the night), Metallica seemed joyous and friendly: Hetfield repeatedly professed his gratitude to the sold-out crowd, welcoming first-timers "to the family" and turning "Master of Puppets" into a singalong (as much as the song's barked vocals can be said to be "sung"). For the set's one ballad, "Nothing Else Matters," couples and bros alike held lighters and cell phones aloft and swayed. There were a few taped intros to some songs, which was slightly off-putting at times, but for the most part it was two solid hours of full-speed-ahead metal, from the opener "That Was Just Your Life" to an encore that began with a partial run through the 10-minute Death Magnetic instrumental "Suicide and Redemption" and followed that with three tracks from 1983's Kill 'Em All, including the rarely heard "Blitzkrieg."

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The last two albums from direct support band Machine Head have been among its best, and Saturday's live set was crushing, including a cover of Iron Maiden's "Hallowed Be Thy Name." Texas quartet the Sword's half-hour opening set crossed Maiden-style dual guitar leads with High on Fire-esque riff-bludgeoning, marking them one of the country's best up-and-coming metal bands. If there's still a music industry in five years, the Sword should be headlining arenas. --Phil Freeman

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SET LIST
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
Ride the Lightning
For Whom the Bell Tolls
One
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Cyanide
Sad But True
And Justice For All
All Nightmare Long
The Day That Never Comes
Master of Puppets
Battery
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

ENCORE
Suicide and Redemption (partial)
Blitzkrieg
Hit the Lights
Seek and Destroy

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