Metallica’s sado-masochistic sequel of orchestral wizardry descended upon the Bay twenty years after its iconic predecessor. S&M2 is not only a charming salute to an astounding career of the lords of the Big 4 but also a cinematic experience which gives a tantalizing nostalgia to live events. Remember those? The magnitude of the show was amplified by the coincidental grand opening of the Chase Center stadium and the crowd was electric. Edwin Altwater, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony backing the legends came out to uproarious ovation, as if he were the main event himself.
Mirroring the 1999 show, “The Ecstasy of Gold” coupled with the band’s grand entrance into “Call of Ktulu”, whipping and dueling in the full circled stage. Metallica wisely mixed the setlist with new releases from Hardwired…to Self Destruct while still adhering to the majesty of their pre-millennium years. “The Day That Never Comes” was the first selection of the night the symphony glided through the intro with prowess that drew tears. The fist pump by Lars at the final notes was exciting and reflected the intensity of the moment.
Besides Lars’ appeal to the Metallica Club and the absence of classics like “Sad But True” or “Fuel”, the concert was near-perfection. Halfway through, the thrash maestros bowed out to allow the San Francisco Symphony to illuminate the stadium with the beautiful “Scythian Suite” and the Hammett co-piloted “Iron Foundry”. In a captivating performance, the spotlight went to Hetfield, who stood guitarless and sang “The Unforgiven 3” with a raw and emotive shiver.
The night was spotlighted by other exceptional solos. James introduced Scott Pingel on the upright bass for an homage to the bass titan Cliff Burton by coaxing the classic bass arpeggios of “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”. Scott did the song justice as he added distortion and wah to the possessed weaving of Burton’s legacy.
The star power exploded for the final five songs from “Wherever I May Roam” and the military horror of “One”, which arguably blended the symphony best with Metallica. The fireflies of phones and lighters came out for “Nothing Else Matters” and with bombastic climax, they bowed out with “Enter Sandman”.
The return to a new stadium, the pomp and circumstance, and the decades of material swirled together on that hot October night to give the world a reminder that they are not leaving the minds of the metal universe ever. To even think so would be, well, S&M.