Thanks for the love fest, Metallica

SINGAPORE - I've personally seen American heavy-metal legends Metallica twice before. So, I was not initially worked up into a lather as I joined the crowd of some 40,000 who showed up for Metallica's first gig here since 1993.

Having caught them at the Leeds Festival in Britain in 2003, and then at Melbourne's Soundwave Fest in March, I'd known what to expect: A well-oiled machine with musicianship tighter than the skinny black jeans the band's metalhead fans are so prone to donning.

But the Singapore gig turned out to be something else.

The 21/2-hour extravaganza drew the band's worshippers to a new venue, the hard-to-get-to and hard-to-exit Changi Exhibition Centre (the Singapore Airshow grounds).

The Grammy-winning quartet - comprising frontman James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, both 50, drummer Lars Ulrich, 49, and newest member, bassist Robert Trujillo, 48 - seemed to play on the energy of the crowd.

A sense of brotherhood had enveloped those gathered, even before the band arrived on stage.

There was a lot of hugging. There was much sharing of the poison of choice - beer. Random people I hadn't seen for years would approach me, all pumped up.

It was a love fest, Metallica-style.

By the time the group took to the stage around 8.45pm, the atmosphere was electric.

Acknowledging the 20-year wait between gigs here, the band's high-octane set list consisted of their biggest hits, mostly from their early days, with classics like Master Of Puppets (1986), Ride The Lightning (1984) and Fade To Black (1984) featuring early in the show.

Metallica are truly the sum of all of their parts, each member giving his all throughout.

From Ulrich's manic double-pedalling with his tongue hanging out, to Hetfield and Hammett's intricate guitar solos and Trujillo's signature helicopter spins, it was a show.

Some veteran bands tend to just go through the motions when playing live, but the four-piece positively relished every minute they were on stage. Earlier in the day at a press conference, Hetfield was asked what kind of advice he had for young bands today.

He said: "The advice I'd like to give bands is to be honest with yourself, be honest with your music.

"Write music that you like. It's as simple as that."

To see a band enjoying the music they wrote and performed three decades ago at the level that Metallica were doing... well, that was, in a word, radical.

Though the concert ended on a high - after a drawn-out, three- song encore ending with headbanging favourite Seek And Destroy (1983) - concertgoers were left griping about the lack of proper transportation and traffic control at the venue.

There were snaking queues for shuttle buses (at $5 per trip) and traffic had slowed to a crawl hours after the show had ended, with many left with no option but to trek along Changi Coastal Road in the hope of flagging a cab.

Such teething problems are to be expected at an untested venue such as the Exhibition Centre, and for an event of such scale.

And though I was one of the gripers, I had to admit that, for this once-in-a-lifetime show and vibe, the hassle was totally worth it.

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