Two hundred and forty-six days after I purchased tickets for Metallica, I finally boarded the airplane for New Jersey. Metallica announced their M72 World Tour with dates stretching into 2024, so there was quite a wait between the time money was taken from my account at the time of ticket purchase (11/30/2022) until the time I walked through the MetLife Stadium gates (08/04/2023). The premise of the M72 tour is that Metallica will play Friday and Sunday shows with different opening bands and different set lists for both nights on each stop of the tour. Two-day tickets went on sale first, to encourage people to see both shows, with single-date tickets going on sale two months after two-day ticket sales.
My flight left Tampa on time and landed in Newark, NJ around 5:30 PM. I should have done prior research on navigating the New Jersey Transit system. It would have saved me waiting in a long line to buy tickets, thereby making me miss two trains and making my travel time to meet up with my friend Rob and his wife Heather nearly three and half hours to go eleven overall train stops. Finally, I met up with Rob and Heather and we made our way to grab a bite to eat and plan the next few days. If you ever make a trip to New Jersey and plan on taking the train, take time to do the research on the transit system.
Friday, the first of the two Metallica shows, we started the day off by heading out for coffee. Here is where I must say that whoever designed the road system in New Jersey deserves a special place in Hell. The coffee shop is literally across the street from the hotel, but we have to drive three miles down the road to do a loop to head back the other way. Only to do another loop making our cross-the-street drive turn into a twelve-mile trip. JHFC, I just want to go across the street.
The coffee shop’s neighbor was a Lamborghini dealership, so of course a few of their toys caught my eye. After caffeinating, we made our venture about seventy-five minutes away to Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ. This is a comic book and memorabilia store for anything Jay and Silent Bob related. Our adventure continued over to Leonardo, NJ, and a visit to the Quick Stop store made famous in the original Clerks movie. I could not resist the urge to get a potential billion-dollar winning Mega Millions ticket from such a famous place. This two-dollar non-winning ticket now has pride of place as a souvenir on my refrigerator back home in Florida.
Now it is finally time to trek back to the hotel and get ready for the first of the two concerts. This night’s show will be the eleventh time I have seen Metallica and ties a personal record of mine, as this is the thirty-seventh concert of the year for me. Pretty fitting given the reference to that number earlier in the day (THIRTY-SEVEN ?!?!?!? If you know, you know!). Traffic to the stadium was absolute madness and both Rob and I had the same thoughts of how we cannot miss Pantera! Thankfully, Rob’s youth was spent in this area so he had the skills to navigate us past traffic and to the stadium lot with what should be plenty of time to navigate the tunnel walkway to gate entry.
We got into our seats just as Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH band was starting the last song of their set. Taking in the stadium, I thought it looked smaller inside than I expected but not due to the massive giant pillars set in eight different locations circled around the ‘in the round’ stage in the middle of the field. Just the footprint of the stadium from the inside looked smaller than what I was used to back home at Raymond James Stadium. I did not see enough of the Mammoth WVH‘s set to really comment on it more. I would like to see this band in more of a headliner slot to really get a feel. From what I saw of their set I missed an amazing performance.
We only had a thirty-minute wait until Pantera was to take the stage. In the minutes leading up to showtime, Phil Anselmo appears on the circular stage barefoot and greeting the fans. While I am not here to take sides on the debate about whether or not this is Pantera, I am here to say this was quite the kick-ass set. There were drum kits set up on opposite sides of the circular stage and when the band took the stage, I incorrectly guessed that since drummer Charlie Benante was on the opposite side of us that the other drum set was set up was for Lars. Halfway through the Pantera set, Charlie walked over and sat behind the kit on our side, thereby giving the fans on our side of the venue a better look at him as he played.
The band sounded amazing. I could feel the anger and aggression in Phil’s voice even though he is singing with a smile. Zakk Wylde was stellar on his axe and never made the set about him, it was all about the music and the legacy of Pantera. The band played a bone-crunching eleven-song set, and every song played was one where I know the lyrics by heart. This was only my second time seeing Pantera and it was absolutely glorious. We had fifty minutes until the mighty Metallica was to take the stage. I took this time to take in the sights and sounds of the stadium around me. To reflect for a few minutes on the journey that brought me to this seat. To give thanks for all the good fortune that I have to be able to do trips like this.
When the lights went out, the crowd came together as one collective roar and the band’s staple pre-show video and song (“The Ecstasy of Gold” by Ennio Morricone) started playing. The anticipation in the air was at its maximum as the band crashed into the first notes of what was my second favorite Metallica song, “Creeping Death“. Wow, what a way to start this show! I am certain there was not a single person seated as the band tore through this thrash classic.
Even though I was denied photo credentials for these shows, just sitting there looking at the sheer size and layout of the stage it would have been quite a monumental task to get great photos of each band member. The circular design gave a far greater number of people to be ‘on the front rail’, but how great of a view they have with the band members all spread out across the stage is still up for discussion.
The stage was very simple and open, Lars’s drum set moved around the stage every four songs. The lights would go out and the drum set would lower below the stage only to rise up a quarter of the way around the stage counterclockwise. Since there was no way for the drums to traverse through the walkways of Snake Pit entrances, Rob and I concluded that there must be four drum kits set up.
How It Went
Next up was “Harvester of Sorrow“, which is another of my favorite tunes by these legends. “Holier Than Thou” and “King Nothing” closed out the first quarter of the show. Once Lars re-emerged on the bottom left of the circle the band introduced us to two songs off their latest release. We got to hear the title track, “72 Seasons“, and “If Darkness Had a Son“. What I consider to be the first-ever metal ballad “Fade to Black” started and it truly was a walk down memory lane for me. I recalled hearing this song the day after I first heard Metallica and remember what a life-changing experience that was!
Staying with tunes off of the new release, “Shadows Follow” played for the first time live, which then took us basically to the halfway point of the show. With the lights dimmed, Lars’s drum set disappeared below the stage and reappeared at the bottom right of the circle stage. The band resumed the show with the instrumental “Orion“, then “Nothing Else Matters“, which is a song that has grown on me over the years. “Sad But True” followed picking the pace back up. This quarter of the show concluded with “The Day That Never Comes“. The lights darkened and the drum set disappeared only to reappear at the upper right-hand part of the circle.
The Final Four
The last four songs of the evening were pure metal mastery in my eyes. “Battery” was the first Metallica song that I ever heard on a life-changing day back in 1986. The ending part of the chorus for “Fuel” lit the stadium ablaze with towers of flames shooting up from various parts of the stage. I think it was at the beginning of “Seek and Destroy” when dozens of oversized inflated Metallica M72 beach balls appeared out of nowhere and drifted between the stage, the snake pit and up into the stands where we were located. The set and the show concluded with “Master of Puppets“, ending a sixteen-song night of absolute pure bliss for this metalhead.
Even after waiting about fifteen minutes before walking through the general admission area to cross to the other side of the stadium where we parked, it was an absolute cluster f*ck getting through the walking tunnel to the parking lot. It was ninety minutes before we pulled out of the parking lot, but it was an amazing concert!
Saturday was a free day. After sleeping in and making another stop browsing the Lamborghinis that even my dreams could not afford, coffee was had by all, and we headed toward Brooklyn. Since neither Rob nor I won the fan club online meet and greet contests for either of the shows, the band’s pop-up store offered an opportunity to win snake pit tickets for the Sunday show, so we at least had to try.
After experiencing Mad Max-like driving conditions crossing over to the island, we found our way to the popup store fairly easily and found the place to be almost empty of people in stark contrast to the location more near the venue. This allowed for tons of photo opportunities of the various props and merchandise. Heather even tried for snake pit tickets this time with no luck. We spent the remainder of the day checking out breweries that were of interest to Heather and Rob. We dined on authentic New York-style pizza before heading back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep after a long day of walking.
Sunday morning, we headed to another staple of the northeast to dine on fresh bagels. A car ride later took us out to Lambert Tower within Garret Mountain Reservation in Paterson, New Jersey. We walked around the entire lakeside path. Mealtime found us at the Chit Chat Diner in Hackensack, NJ. It was a really nice relaxing and enjoyable day hanging with Heather and Rob. We had such fun and spirited conversation across a full spectrum of topics. We all enjoyed the time outside in nature without the stickiness of Florida’s summer humidity in the air.
I am not sure if it was Rob that took us a different way for the second night’s show or Waze, but we departed the hotel after the stadium doors had already opened an hour previously. As expected, traffic was much better and this time we parked in a different place where the stadium looked like the walk there would be its own buzzkill.
There were large buses we found to take patrons to the entrance and Rob and I happened to be the last two on the current bus in front so it was a no-brainer not to walk. Entry into the stadium was a breeze. We were in our seats just minutes before Five Finger Death Punch took the stage for their hour-long, twelve-song set. The best part of the set we discovered was a guy seated a few rows down below us who both Rob and I were convinced was a serial killer by the end of the night. As Five Finger Death Punch played, this guy was so intense about riling up the crowd around him and in turn the stadium. His intense stares were what started Rob and I exchanging laughing commentary throughout the show about how this guy probably has bodies buried in his basement.
Metallica Begins Again
The same fifty-minute set changeover had the stage bare as the lights went out right at 8:50 PM and again Lars’s drum kit rises in the same top left circle location. This night’s show will be the twelfth time I have seen Metallica and my personal record-breaking thirty-eighth concert of the year. Soon Metallica gets night two started with a very healthy dose of some classic “Whiplash” then segues into “For Whom the Bell Tolls“, which arguably is a top three song of theirs for me. “Ride The Lightning” and “The Memory Remains” round out the first quarter of the show and seriously we are off to such a kick-ass start.
Three of the next four songs, this time with Lars on the lower left-hand part of the stage, were off the new 72 Seasons with “Lux Eterna“, the live debut of “Too Far Gone?” and “You Must Burn!” with “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” as the third song. Hearing the new songs live gives me a greater appreciation for how this band has continued to grow and evolve over the years. Having only heard the new songs that have been on radio, hearing some of the new ones live over these past two shows has been refreshing. Listening to these new songs, the band sounds hungry and angry in their presentation of new material.
Just like the last show, the second half of the night with Lars on the bottom right part of the circle starts with an instrumental, “The Call of Ktulu“, which transitions into “The Unforgiven” and then the tempo picks up again with “Wherever I May Roam“. The band again lights the stage and stadium ablaze with fire for “Moth Into Flame” and I now begin to savor every precious moment as I know the minutes and notes are dwindling down.
As the lights went out for the drum kit change to the upper right part of the circle stage, the band emerged. As soon as the first note hit my ears, I knew it was my absolute favorite song by Metallica. They opened the final quarter of the show with “Blackened“. For so many years I held Master of Puppets as Metallica’s defining overall CD. Musically over the years, I have shifted that thinking to …And Justice for All, and “Blackened” was a big part of my reasoning. While that is a discussion for another day, I was in absolute heaven and already knew my neck was going to be sore for the flight home tomorrow. “Whiskey in the Jar” was next up and then the band’s radio airplay breakthrough hit, “One“, then the night, show, and the two-day event concluded with “Enter Sandman“.
When we were exiting the stadium for the walk back to the car, I recognized Jose “Metal Ambassador” Mangin, host of SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal. He stopped and chatted with Rob and I, and we got a few photos. Our walk back to the car was not nearly as long as the bus ride there made it seem it would be. Traffic was a breeze back and back at the hotel before we knew it.
While the overall cost of the seats we had, the plane ride up there and hotel accommodations were not friendly with the bank account, it was an absolutely EPIC trip and one that I will never forget in this lifetime. It was great to hang out with my friend Rob again and get to know his wife, Heather. We had a lot of laughs and moments to cherish, two absolutely incredible concerts in a venue I had never been to before, and I met some new friends, one who I will see on next year’s Monsters of Rock Cruise.
With rain on the morning of my departure, no way was I messing with the train system and potentially missing my flight. While Uber was three times the cost of my train journey, I arrived at the airport on time. Upon walking around the Newark airport that morning, I did notice about a dozen individuals proudly sporting their shirts from the show(s). Sadly, my awesome weekend trip came to an end, and I had to get back to reality and life back in Florida.
One final note is that when the tour single days tickets did finally go on sale back on January 16th of this year, I could not resist the temptation and bought a Friday ticket, so I can see Pantera again, for the Boston date in August 2024. Five hundred and sixty-four days away from the ticket purchase. It will be so worth the wait, and I am sure I’ll try to make it for both shows in Boston since I am already there.
Check out more of Randude‘s contributions to CGCM Rock Radio coming soon!