Metallica bassist Robert?Trujillo performs at the?Air Canada Centre last night.

Metallica
Venue: Air Canada Centre
Rating: *****

Recent history has not been kind to Metallica.

From internal struggles to directional strife, poor album reviews and a tell-all documentary that painted them as whiners with a need for attitude adjustments, Metallica has spent most of the new millennium battling strife and unstable critical opinion.

Not anymore, folks. Ravaging town for the first of two nights on their current World Magnetic Tour, guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, bassist Rob Trujillo, guitarist Kirk Hammett and drummer Lars Ulrich proved that despite a few setbacks, they’ve returned with a vengeance.

Setting a powerful mood instantly, the quartet ran onstage to their long-standing intro music, Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy Of Gold,” before blasting into “That Was Just Your Life” and “The End Of The Line,” a double-shot from their latest effort, Death Magnetic. The crowd immediately returned the graces of Metallica’s guttural, aggressive pace-setter with raucous applause and Bic lighter salutes, a welcome change from the onslaught of blue electronic-device lights that have replaced them over the years.

But even Metallica knew this had to be a night of true old-time heavy metal. After the opener, it was straight into the crowd-pleasing hits such as “Ride The Lightning” and obvious necessities such as pyrotechnics-heavy “One,” all performed with great enthusiasm from both sides of the stage: the band running about endlessly, the fans cheering uproariously.

However, the stage and theatrics was just as vital to the end result. Maximizing their “centre stage” set-up, Metallica was surrounded on all sides by fans, Ulrich’s kit spinning around so that everyone got their fair view. From the rafters, massive — as in, the size of a large truck — sets of steel coffins housed a mind-melting lighting rig that shifted up and down, dwarfing the already larger-than-life band.

As for those lights, well, more mature readers might recall when Toronto’s McLaughlin Planetarium held a then-dazzling Pink Floyd Laser Light Show. Within the span of seconds, the plethora of red, green, blue and other multi-coloured light effects rendered that spectacle about as effective as wiggling a light pen around in a dark soccer field.

To say this amalgam of visual effects coupled with beastly sound and tight, confident playing was amazing is a horrific understatement. While they may have had their problems, Metallica is still the biggest — and best — heavy metal band today.

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