If you measure a band's monetary wealth by the size of their touring stage, then despite what you already know about Metallica, they would be loaded. After over two decades in the business, it was blatantly obvious during the first of two sold-out shows in Toronto that Metallica are not only excellent performers, but also strategic businessmen. They have created a stage that in some ways was surprisingly sparse on unnecessary flourishes but richly laden with pyrotechnics, intent on giving the stadium of crazed fans what they wanted - and expected.
The stage was so big that openers Volbeat, who seemed to gravitate to one side, had some difficulty remembering that fans were able to encircle the massive, rectangle-shaped monstrosity. But in all fairness, it was the Danish band's first gig opening for Metallica on the eastern leg of their Death Magnetic world tour. Their perfunctory short set of punk-infused hillbilly hard rock seemed a bit out of place - perhaps a nod to the youngsters in the audience who were there to bust their metal virginity.
One of the first shows he's played since taking a brief hiatus from Virginia's Lamb of God, guitarist Mark Morton was in fine form, enthusiastically cranking out a couple of tracks from their latest LP Wrath and older fan favourites "Redneck," "Laid to Rest" and "Walk With Me In Hell."
Entering the stage to their mainstay "The Ecstasy of Gold," Metallica made it clear from the get-go that despite being on tour for over a year, things were going well. Surprising the audience by playing classics including "Fight Fire with Fire," "The Memory Remains," "One" and "Sad But True," drummer Lars Ulrich served as the circus master from his low-rise kit at the centre of the stage, periodically jumping out of his stool and prancing around. The crowd lapped it up, and despite bordering on cheesiness, his enthusiasm was infective. After all, if you are going to shell out big bucks to see a band, they had better entertain you, and Metallica certainly did.