Metallica have long been one of the greatest metal bands on the planet, but at what point do you ask yourself if enough is enough? Are they past their best and bordering on legacy act status, or are they able to remain relevant in a time where the amount of proper stadium rock bands slowly dwindles? In Metallica’s case, it seems to be a fine balance between the two, generally leaning towards the latter. Sure, the band have all the hits, but they’re still able to churn out qualitatively strong records. Last night, the quartet took their impressive WorldWired tour to Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff Arena for a long night of magistral riffs, pummelling rhythms and…André Hazes? Bokassa and Ghost joined on the night as special guests.
Bokassa opened the night with a tight mix of stoner metal and doom rock, all of which is in support of upcoming studio album Crimson Riders, due next Friday (21 June). The Trondheim outfit are slowly but surely making more of a name for themselves on the back of this run, and rightly so; the riffs hit hard (Last Night (Was A Real Massacre)), the vocals are ferocious (Mouthbreathers Inc) and the energy sustains itself from begin till end. Opening bands on big tours always have trouble appealing to new crowds – especially in a stadium – but it’s safe to say that Bokassa earned themselves tons of new listeners last night. Swedish behemoths Ghost served as the night’s big special guest, playing for a solid hour and even bringing their own stage production with them. Youthful frontman Cardinal Copia and his band of Nameless Ghouls had Amsterdam in the palms of their hands for the duration, kicking off on the gritty Rats, taken from last year’s groundbreaking Prequelle. It’s an album which has cemented Ghost’s status not only as an incendiary live band, but also as one who could well take over Metallica’s throne when they eventually call it a day. Metal elitists may disagree with that claim, but then that’s also what you’d expect from a group of people whose allegiance to metal doesn’t cover modern ground. Over the course of an hour, Copia and co. treated the Johan Cruijff Arena to cuts from across Ghost’s four studio albums, with particular highlights including the haunting Cirice (that chugged riff), disco metal anthem Dance Macabre and pompous finale Square Hammer. Ghost may be the kind of band who are better suited to a headline show, but even when they’re opening for Metallica you have to admit that they can turn an entire stadium into a little spectacle of their own.
Taking to the stage a whole 35 minutes later than scheduled (something which garnered pre-show boos from the crowd), Metallica decided to cut the crap and dive straight into the heavy stuff with Hardwired, the lead single from 2016’s album of the same name. Its pummelling rhythms and Hetfield’s intense vocals are the perfect pair, setting the tone for what was set to be a very long night. It didn’t take a lot for 60,000 Dutch fans to go ecstatic, with an extended The Memory Remains appearing early on and feeding straight into a captivating rendition of Ride the Lightning. If there’s one thing that Metallica’s songs do so well, then it’s their ability to stand the test of time and sound just as fresh as the new stuff. A track like Sad But True works so well alongside 2016’s Moth Into Flame, so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking they came from the same decade (and not 23 years apart). Four songs ended up featuring from 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, including the fierce Spit Out the Bone – a live favourite – and rousing slow-burner Here Comes Revenge. The former sticks to a pretty manic pace throughout, producing some great pits, while the latter’s initial sludge is slowly eradicated by a set of tight ass hard rock grooves courtesy of drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo. After a well-received No Leaf Clover, Trujillo and guitarist Kirk Hammett took to the end of the stage’s catwalk for their own little jam. This one was a bit different, though, as it featured a brief cover of André Hazes classic Bloed, Zweet & Tranen with Trujillo on vocals. Singing in Dutch, Trujillo instantly became the star of the show, winning the hearts of many a trusty Ajax fan. He explained the cover beforehand by telling the crowd that he’d wanted to play something traditionally Dutch especially for Amsterdam, and the crowd absolutely lapped it up. The Johan Cruijff Arena often gets stick for its poor sound, but last night it didn’t seem to be much an issue at all despite occasional bouts of reverb.
Let’s be real, though: Metallica may be a fantastic band who never cease to remain relevant with each new release, but we all know what the people came for in the first place. Right? The music which made Metallica such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. If the swathes of black Master of Puppets t shirts scattered among the crowd didn’t say enough, then the response to hits definitely did the trick. Take the winning streak of One, Master of Puppets and For Whom the Bell Tolls as an example; each track carries with itself its own unique sound, and each one received just as big a response from the crowd as the next one did. Not that this should be a surprise though, they’re all absolute classics of the highest order. There’s nothing better than hearing those opening Master of Puppets of chugs, followed straight by that riff, and Amsterdam sure as hell knew this, responding in their tens of thousands like wild animals. A brazen Seek & Destroy brought the main part of the show to an end on the catwalk, with thirteen year old fan Evan on drums. And yet the crowd still pleaded for more as the sun slowly set. Which they got, because who’s going to end a show and not play their two biggest hits? Not Metallica, of course. After the aforementioned Spit Out the Bone got tongues wagging once more, a one-two of slow-burner Nothing Else Matters and legendary Enter Sandman showed Amsterdam exactly why Metallica are a band still on top of their game. The so-called Big 4 of hard rock and metal might not be as relevant of a concept in 2019, but if one thing’s for certain then it’s that Metallica ain’t going nowhere. Find more images from the night below, taken by Hans Peter van Velthoven.