The Metallica Family descended on New Jersey from all around the world for the kickoff date of the 2024 North American tour of Metallica’s M72 tour. On the back of the excellent 72 Seasons album released this spring on Blackened Recordings (read our review here). Reports from the European tour were high, especially their impressive turn at Download Festival. The two shows, per city, no repeats in the setlist is matched only in its ambition by the incredible in-the-round staging and all weekend-long Metallica Takeover events, including pop-shops, a Metallica film festival, side concerts with Metallica-related bands, a Ross Halfin photo book Q & A book signing and more.
Even at the hotel before heading to the stadium, we met people from all over the world and it was pretty glorious in terms of energy and hype from everyone we spoke to. The staff at the venue was top-notch the entire way, from the moment we got there. Fans were tailgating, but my BFF and fellow Ghost Cultist Curtis and I Uber-ed over from our hotel. Overall, this was a wise move for us.
Prong set up on a pop-up stage in parking lot G, and we made it just in time for what we thought was the start of the pre-show. However, there were generator issues and the band went on 40 minutes late, but still got a full set. Sporting a new lineup, Prong slayed the fans watching with non-stop bangers. The circle pits were fun to watch, with many dudes past their moshing prime trying hard to capture their elusive youth. Tommy Victor reveled in the moment, putting on a clinic of thrash guitar and stage presence. Highlights of the 12-song set included “Broken Peace,” “Unconditional” “Best Served Cold,” “Prove You Wrong,” the live debut of “Non-Existence”, the hella old-school 1986 jam “Disbelief,” and of course “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck!” We can’t wait to hear that new album when it drops in October.
Besides the music, the highlight of the day for us was all the friends, personal, and music business peeps we ran into. The many hugs, happy tears, and rejoicing in the company of fellow metalheads from all walks of life was amazing. I really haven’t come down from all the warm and fuzzy reunions of fans, and comrades. Un-metal, but whatevs.
Walking into the stadium, you just have to marvel at the scope of everything. Just big, and gaudy, and not even close to the sports arenas of my youth. The entirety of the stadium was also an ad for Pepsi. While this was not unexpected, and I love Suicidal Tendencies, it was no less gross to me. Getting to our seats, taking in the hugeness of it all, the giant in-the-round stage in the shape of an inverted Mobius-Strip, with the four massive video towers. In person, it is much more epic than videos or photos could do justice to it. All the fans in the filling stadium seemed to be vibrating on the same frequency. It was a crazy scene.
Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH hit the stage exactly at 6 PM EST, and proceeded to rock the place in impressive fashion. A fully-fledged artist in his own right, the band has arrived with tours opening for Foo Fighters, Guns N Roses, and now Metallica. The set list was a short, tight well-rehearsed bunch of songs from both the band’s debut, and recently released II albums. Wolf sang beautifully, shredded tastefully, and acknowledged how insane this was for him several times. People want to hate nepo-babies in 2023, but Wolf and his band are supremely talented, and they have done the work.
The stadium started to fill up in earnest now. As the crew set up the Pantera, staging with Pantera floor rugs, and large CFH standees the crow whooped and hollered in anticipation. I was reminded of the only time I saw the band in a similar venue, at the old Giants Stadium next door and now demolished. It was Ozzfest 1997 with Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, Fear Factory, Machine Head, and many others. Right before Pantera went on, 1000s of fans leaped from the bottom ring of seats of the stadium onto the hot and crowded floor of the field. That is the kind of diehard loyalty this band inspired. The law-breaking, fear from bodily-harm kind.
The band came out tonight performing their first song of the night “A New Level’ and a shot went through the crowd. It seemed like many people were freaking out at even the prospect of seeing some version of this band lost to time. They played all the hits: “Walk,” “I’m Broken,” “5 Minutes Alone,” “Becoming,” “This Love,” and “Cowboys From Hell.” It was epic.
Everything was done with care and Philip Anselmo remarked several times in the set the entire purpose of this tour for them was to pay tribute to Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, as it should be. The set was all hits, as you can imagine and the band was a tight, well-practiced machine with players actually capable of reproducing the Pantera sound and performances accurately. No one should say shit about Zakk Wylde on guitar for Pantera. He was terrific. He handled some of the most impossible riffs ever made and did about 90% of the solos Dime’s original way. Charlie Benante was flawless on drums, and when I closed my eyes, I heard Vinnie. It definitely choked me up. Philip sounded great and was his funny self in his Ronnie Van Zant bare feet. Rex Brown was great too, playing his classic lines, running all over the stage, and providing backing vocals.
As the night sky overtook the venue and record-capacity crowd represented it was almost time. We got to see the full power of the video screen towers and more impressive lighting around the stage. As the familiar strains of AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way to The Top” overtook the stage, all cured up to a montage of 43 years of Metallica history, we were ready, and they were ready.
After the traditional opening of “The Ecstacy of Gold’ the band tore into the opener “Creeping Death’ and it was stellar. James Hetfield was dominant as the frontman, greeting the crowd and leading the charge. The stage was spectacular, reminding me that every time I feel like they have outdone themselves, they push the visual elements even higher on the next go around.
With a set made up of old hits and new songs, it was refreshing to hear some fresh riffs in the set. Nothing too obscure, but it was nice to hear three songs from Ride The Lightning, along with “Holier Than Thou,” “King Nothing’ and “The Day That Never Comes’ since those don’t get played too often.
The band seemed very loose performance-wise, with Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich flubbing a few parts here and there. Rob Trujillo has a lot of great energy, and I can do without the Kirk and Rob jam-song thing. This is taking time away from another song or some other interesting interlude, for what I assume is a breather for the other guys. The highlight of the entire show might have been “Fade To Black!”
All in all, the show was amazing and the Metallica family left happy. Bring on the next two years of tour dates and fun experiences.
More Metallica here:
Setlist, via setlist.fm
Song played from tape
It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) (AC/DC song)
The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone song)
Harvester of Sorrow
Holier Than Thou
If Darkness Had a Son (followed by “Rose Avenue”… more )
Fade to Black
Shadows Follow (Live debut)
Orion (followed by Kirk Doodle)
Nothing Else Matters (Kirk messed up intro, song restarted)
Sad But True
The Day That Never Comes
Seek & Destroy
Master of Puppets
The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone song) (Metallica’s version)
Note: Soundcheck: “Creeping Death”, “Harvester of Sorrow”, “72 Seasons”, “If Darkness Had a Son”, “Fade to Black”, “Shadows Follow”, “Orion”, “Sad But True”, “The Day That Never Comes”, “Lux Æterna”, “Spit Out the Bone”
WORDS BY KEEFY