As they tip over into the second half of the set (the second quarter, remember, of this two-night extravaganza) it’s natural to expect another box-fresh 72 Seasons song or a catalogue-trawling deep cut. Instead, we get all-time anthem Nothing Else Matters. Sad But True rocks the space to its foundations, Hetfield laughing-off a minor tuning fluff (“This is our first time on this stage; we're only human...”) with a sparkle in his eye that says he knows there’s no need to apologise here. The Day That Never Comes (the only post-2000 track not on the new album aired tonight) stokes a different kind of nostalgia, with plenty of punters shocked to think it’s already 15 years old.
Then all hell breaks loose. Having already confirmed that they’d be playing 16 tracks tonight, and presumably saving any setlist-extending surprises for Saturday, there is no fucking about with an encore. Rather, they slam the pedal to the metal with five all-time thrash classics in a row that detonate the audience into a frenzy of pumped fists and spinning pits.
Ride The Lightning and a rare full run-through of Battery get the chaos underway. Fuel sees the stage erupt in flames: the decision to reserve pyro for that point making its arrival all the more effective. The start of Seek & Destroy is fluffed as the crowd are going so wild the band can’t hear drummer Lars Ulrich count them in, but ends with Kirk and bassist Rob Trujillo sprinting round the circular stage together as if caught in some massive, invisible mosh. Mercilessly piling on into closer Master Of Puppets, with its timeless blend of bittersweetness and savagery, it’s actually somewhat difficult even for hardened Metallica veterans to comprehend the brakes-off brilliance of what we’re seeing.
It’s a neck-wrecking, goosebump-lifting classic set from heavy music’s greatest band. And there's still a whole other one to look forward to in two nights’ time...
READ THIS: Metallica: “In the past every single thing had to be fought over… now the band is a safe space and everyone is very protective of it”