Metallica rock fan favourites

Metallica’s James Hetfield (left) and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett performing at the Changi Exhibition Centre on 24 August 2013.

American metal juggernauts Metallica are exactly that kind of act, one that can draw fans of rock music in all its genres and subgenres to the sprawling Changi Exhibition Centre grounds.

The massive gig, in a venue usually reserved for mega events such as the Singapore Airshow, was undoubtedly one of the grandest rock spectacles in recent history. There were no flashy stage set-ups, no pyrotechnics, not even the wall of amplifiers usually seen in a typical rock show. Sure, the two-tiered stage was massive, as befitting one of the world's best-selling bands, but it was pretty much bare, save for the gigantic LED screens at the back and the sides.

What the crowd came for, and Metallica dished out in a show spanning 21/2 hours, were their songs - the crushing thrash-metal masterpieces that the band have been performing since they formed 32 years ago.

Frontman James Hetfield might not have the flashy charisma of, say, Queen's Freddie Mercury nor the swagger of The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, but he does have a commanding presence bolstered by forceful vocals and a bagful of genre- defining rhythm guitar riffs.

Fellow founder Lars Ulrich is one of those drummers not content with just holding down the beats at the back but has as much presence as the frontman.

Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett lived up to his reputation as one of metal's most prominent guitarists, fingers flying all over the frets of his assortment of guitars in speedy and searing solos.

Newest member and bass player Robert Trujillo, the only one among the four who did not play on all of their 10 albums, was the one with the fancy moves, doing his signature, crab-like walk and helicopter spins with bass in hand.

It is clear that the band's following here has gotten bigger over years. When they last played here 20 years ago at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, their first time here, they pulled about one-quarter of Saturday's crowd.

The band played what can be argued as a populist set. Most of the setlist was culled from the band's first four fan favourite albums released throughout the 1980s, including their 1986 magnum opus Master Of Puppets.

The band said as much in an earlier press conference at the venue. Hetfield told the local and regional media that their loyal worldwide following was as much a part of Metallica as the four members. They clearly had their ears on the ground and were listening to what the fans wanted to hear.

Complex, aggressive and layered, tunes such as Battery, ...And Justice For All and Ride The Lightning were played with equal amounts of finesse and fury, while power ballads such as Fade To Black and Nothing Else Matters showed off the quartet's musical dynamism.

The more recent releases such as 2008's Death Magnetic did not get much play, and songs from universally reviled releases such as 2011's Lulu, an ill-conceived collaboration with Velvet Underground pioneer Lou Reed, were noticeably absent.

They bookended the show with their 1983 debut Kill 'Em All, starting the show with the album's opener Hit The Lights and capping off the three-song encore with Seek & Destroy from the release.

The fans, mostly dressed in the band's signature black, were only too happy to sing along throughout the show, when they were not too busy headbanging to the faster songs.

Earlier in the day, local hard rock/metal outfit The Sacrilege opened the show with a 30-minute set at 6pm, followed by a thoroughly entertaining set from veteran Canadian metal underdogs Anvil, currently undergoing a resurgence, thanks to an award-winning 2008 documentary film chronicling the band's rise and fall in popularity. Frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow hammed it up with corny one-liners and almost-campy metal tunes with titles such as Metal On Metal.

Getting out of the venue was almost a nightmare, however. There were massive queues for taxis and the $5-a-trip shuttle buses to Singapore Expo and Changi Airport. Those who drove faced an hour-long traffic crawl just to get out of the carpark.

It is a shame because transportation issues aside, Changi Exhibition Centre, with its sprawling grounds and orderly entrances and exits, is a fine venue for a colossal rock show.

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