Review by Mike Bax
Photos by Aneil Singh

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When touring Ride The Lightning, Metallica played their first Toronto show at The Concert Hall (The Masonic Temple) on January 19, 1985 – a 1200 capacity auditorium. This evening’s Opera House show, with a posted capacity of 950 (680 Main Floor and 270 Balcony), marks the smallest venue show Metallica have performed in our fine city. It certainly felt like there were more than 950 people in the room this evening, with every nook and cranny of space at The Opera House filled with bodies to take in this historic Metallica event. The majority of the tickets this evening were sold to Metallica’s Fifth Member fan club at a cost of $25 with $1.50 processing fee. What was left over went out for sale at a cost of $100 a ticket with fees, all proceeds from the evening going to the The Daily Bread Food Bank. After the press hold-back (and there was a sizeable representation of press people from all over Canada in attendance this evening), there MIGHT have been 300 actual tickets that went out for sale to the general public. So, for fans who didn’t manage to get tickets, there were likely 30000 people trying to buy these 300 tickets at 11am last Wednesday morning when this show went on sale – an almost impossible win scenario for fans. The Daily Bread Food Bank had no idea that Metallica were even donating their proceeds to them until after it was announced. The not-for-profit actually wound up getting phone calls from fans looking to get access to the show.

Rumours of scalpers asking north of $2000 a ticket were circulating the venue, but with all sales attached to photo ID and no opportunity to leave the venue once checked in, I’m not sure how many tickets for this evening were even available for resale.

At 8:50pm, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo strutted on stage to an intense roar of approval from the Toronto crowd, launching into their Budgie cover of ‘Breadfan’ before tackling some of their classics ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Battery’ and ‘Sad But True’. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo featured Rush’s ‘Working Man’ at its beginning and end, met with cheers of joy from the room. ‘Atlas, Rise!’, ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Hardwired’ were included in the set this evening, the three singles advanced before Hardwired…To Self Destruct saw it’s release on November 18th. An immediate number one album in Canada, Hardwired is quite simply put, the best album Metallica have put out in over two decades. These three new songs blended in wonderfully with the band’s back-catalog, which bodes incredibly well for next year when the band plan on touring Hardwired in earnest. We can only hope they decide to take ‘Spit Out The Bone’ on the road with them as a part of their 2017 setlist, it being the most relentless track Metallica have recorded in aeons.

This evening was a full-on club show, with all of Metallica’s usual accoutrements left in a warehouse, the band took the stage with Lar’s drum kit, a few speaker stacks with the newly distressed Metallica ‘M‘ adorned on the front and the requisite gear of the three guitarists. The band utilized The Opera House lighting and soundboard, gaffed the beginning of ‘One’ amidst a hail of chuckling from the band members and sludged their way through a few of the tracks with an anything-can-happen-tonight attitude that came off endearingly well for the entirety of the performance.

The encore consisted of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, ‘Hardwired’ and live staple ‘Seek & Destroy’, followed by a lengthy loiter on stage tossing guitar picks, waves and chest thumps to the crowd. Hetfield smiled widely saying “That felt good” to the audience, promising that they would be back in the summer in 2017. The band thanked Toronto for being so great to them over the years, and walked off the stage, leaving the audience in the venue hardwired into a fugue state of utter disbelief over having witnessed such a legendary band in a Toronto room so small.

One for the books. I’ll never see the band in a venue this size again, I’m sure. An utterly epic evening.

Setlist:
Breadfan (Budgie cover)
Creeping Death
Battery
Sad But True
Kirk’s solo (Working Man (Rush)
Fade to Black
Atlas, Rise!
Harvester of Sorrow
Moth Into Flame
Rob’s solo
One
Master of Puppets
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Enter Sandman

Encore:
Whiskey in the Jar (unknown – Irish traditional song)
Hardwired
Seek & Destroy