Metallica militia broadcast live in Morwell

Stefan Bradley

Metallica performs at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas on August 18, 2023. Show photos: Brett Murray

The metal militia that is Metallica and their fanbase broadcast heavy rock riffs and two killer live shows all around the world in cinemas last month, including in Morwell, as part of their M72 World Tour.

The California heavy metal icons probably won’t be coming to Gippsland anytime soon, and it’s been over a decade since the band performed in Australia, so a show streamed live from Texas to a Morwell cinema is the closest fans in our region will get to experience their electric set-up.

This is a cinema experience that breaks all the rules. Cinemagoers were encouraged to stand up and make some noise in the theatre, and even jump on their phone to share photos and videos to a social media hashtag. It’s a front row opportunity you don’t have to line up hours for.

Frontman James Hetfield welcomed everyone to the ‘Metallica Family’, and called the shows a “gathering of people who don’t fit in”. It’s no wonder he’s considered one of greatest frontman in rock and metal. Despite his age of 60, his voice is in fine form, and he chugs away on his guitar at the same time with the energy as someone half his age. The other three in the band are just as hungry to please the crowd.

Metallica’s elaborate light show stuns fans.

With Victoria about 15 hours ahead of Texas, the true live experience was the 5.30pm sessions on Saturday August 19 and Monday August 21. Assuming you didn’t go to a later session, and or were in an unfavourable time zone, around the world all Metallica fans enjoyed the same show as Texas – bar a six-second broadcasting delay.

With the first three songs of night one, the live favourites ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ and ‘Leper Messiah’, it was clear that the band would be catering to all their fans. Not just the old school fans, but also the more mainstream (or casual) listeners, and the hardcore devotees who love all their albums.

The band’s M72 tour is in support of their 11th studio album, 72 Seasons, released in April. A band with such a large following and influence as Metallica could probably rest on their laurels and play a show full of hits as not much else, but the group has always tried to find ways to innovate.

As part of the tour, they’ve set up a ‘No Repeat Weekend’ concept, with not a single song repeated across the two nights in each city. It’s a fan’s dream to hear 32 completely different tracks across the two shows from over forty years of history.

The sound across both nights was hit and miss. It can be difficult to ascertain at times whether it was cinema or the sound mix from Texas to blame. The Morwell Village Cinemas session did not have VMAX, which has a larger screen and enhanced sound in many cases. A stray bass drum permeated the sound of much of night one, and parts of two, which was very frustrating. The first night was also not very loud, but thankfully night two turned it up to 11.

While those in the cinema got to see the band up close and personal at all the great angles, it didn’t always make sense; it was strange to see the camera not switch to lead guitarist Kirk Hammett when he was playing key solos.

One of the weakest moments from the first night was their performance of the new album’s lead single, ‘Lux Æterna’. It’s one of the better tracks from 72 Seasons, but this version sounded like a rehearsal, and Hetfield struggled to hit the higher notes on the chorus. None of my personal favourites from the new record were played, but it’s great to see a legacy band have confidence in their new material.

About two-dozen people were in the Morwell cinema for the live 5.30 session on both nights. Photo: Stefan Bradley.

‘Seek & Destroy’ and a cover of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ saw beach balls dropped all over the crowd. Despite being one of the pioneering heavy bands, Metallica also have a soft side, and hearing the crowd sing the title of power ballad ‘Nothing Else Matters’ at its conclusion was very emotional.

One very unexpected highlight was ‘Dirty Window’ off the infamous St Anger record – this live version sounded absolutely brutal. Both nights saw a lengthy instrumental – ‘Orion’ and ‘The Call of Ktulu’ – which were great to sit back and take in the riffage.

Alongside classics like ‘Battery’, ‘One’ and ‘Fade to Black’, it’s great to see the band give a nod to the underrated tracks in their set, like ‘The Day That Never Comes’, ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ and ‘King Nothing’. The first night ended with ‘Master of Puppets’ and the second with ‘Enter Sandman’. There was no way they could have both of those monster hits on the same night, with the former experiencing a popularity surge thanks to its inclusion in Stranger Things.

Ultimately, there were no surprises on either night’s setlist – no song premieres, no revival of old tracks, or a special cover. Just two great Metallica shows, which we hope to see in Victoria soon.