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Kutcher spoke with the Register about the Native Fund's Metallica concert, which took place at the Iowa Speedway on June 8, 2017. Wochit

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NEWTON, Ia. — It shouldn’t look that easy, playing for thousands of people.

The music shouldn’t fill every inch of space as seamlessly as it does. The sound of four humans playing instruments shouldn't without hesitation shake you to your bones so relentlessly and unapologetically.

But, when metal giants Metallica took the stage at the Iowa Speedway on Friday night, that’s exactly what happened. It shouldn't come as a surprise; the word "mighty" is usually attached to their name for a reason, after all.

Performing in Iowa for the 14th time in the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career and the first time since 2008 at Wells Fargo Arena, Metallica delivered a more than two-hour set. The band provided fans with a ferocious 18-track setlist during the lone Iowa show this summer for the renowned metal act, part of the "WorldWired" tour.  

The show in Newton, considered by organizers the biggest of its kind to take over the Iowa Speedway, acted as a fundraiser for the Native Fund, a nonprofit launched by Iowans Ashton Kutcher and Dallas Clark that aims to aid Iowans in disaster relief. A final attendance was unavailable at the time of publish.

“Tonight we’re all Iowans, right? We are. We are,” the 53-year-old Metallica singer and guitarist James Hetfield said after the set opened. “This is a good cause. We’re glad to be here. … Feelin’ alive and kickin' some ass after all this time.”

More: Ashton Kutcher explains why his nonprofit is all about 'Iowans helping Iowans'

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Hardwired … for Iowa: Metallica leaned heavily on tracks from the 2016 effort, “Hardwired … to Self-Destruct,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts last November. The first-half of the band’s set came loaded with “Hardwired …” material, including the opening with the album’s title track, plus “Atlas, Rise!,” “Now That We’re Dead,” “Moth Into Flame” and “Halo on Fire.”

From “Hardwired …” material, Hetfield and Metallica — guitarist Kirk Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo — laid on punch after punch of fan-favorite numbers for the second-half of the performance. Unlike many of its aging stadium hard rock counterparts, Metallica has the ability to feel, sound and look timeless on stage. The precise, influential guitar playing of Hammett sounded as crisp and clean as the first time you heard “The Unforgiven” solo; the guttural of Hetfield settled in your belly the same way it did when you first played “Master of Puppets” in your parent's’ basement (or is that just me?); the get-the-job-done drumming from Ulrich still sounded like it was getting the job done.

Juxtaposed against the “Hardwired …” numbers, the classics, such as “One,” “Whiplash” and “Master of Puppets,” felt as fresh and energetic as the day each first hit radio waves.

Still, Hetfield found time to playfully address the band’s age.

“ ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ that’s kind-of where it all started … like 100 years ago,” Hetfield joked before the band played seminal, pre-encore number “Seek and Destroy.”

In a shout-out unique to Iowa, Metallica dedicated one of the night’s heaviest numbers to Des Moines' headbanging heroes.

“Iowa, I know there’s a certain band that comes from here that’s extremely heavy,” Hetfield said before performing “Sad But True.”

He continued: “We’ve toured with them; we’re friends with them … so we want to dedicate this next song to Slipknot.”

More: Ashton Kutcher on Iowa: 'The more places I go, the more I realize how great it is here'

Seek and … raise awareness: Minutes prior to Metallica taking the stage, Iowa natives Dallas Clark and Ashton Kutcher addressed the crowd regarding The Native Fund. Friday marked the second time the Kutcher and Clark-led nonprofit has thrown a stadium-worthy show in Iowa; The Native Fund hosted Blake Shelton in Kinnick Stadium last August (a few metalheads booed when Kutcher reminded the crowd of this during his pep talk).

Between jokes of Kutcher asking Clark to perform Metallica karaoke, the two Iowa stars spent the time on stage encouraging attendees to donate and register as a volunteer for the Native Fund. 

“Iowa made me who I am,” Kutcher said. “Iowa gave me the opportunity to do everything else I get to do in the world. I just wouldn't be an Iowan if I didn’t figure out a way to give back.”

Earlier in the evening, the sweeping guitars of California-born metal act Avenged Sevenfold (which Dallas Clark mistakenly called “Avenged Foldseven” in his speech. We’ll let it slide this time, Dallas.) proved a solid direct support option for Metallica. The M. Shadows-led five-piece performed nine lengthy tracks — including memorable hit “Bat Country” and show-stopper “Unholy Confessions” — across an hour-long set.

Danish hard rock group Volbeat opened the evening with a forgettable 45-minute set.

More: Corey Taylor is Iowa’s biggest geek. Here’s the proof.

Enter the encore: After delivering an initial 15 songs —  including the nearly nine-minute rendition of “Seek and Destroy” — Metallica returned to the stage for a three-song encore containing the group’s most celebrated work, beginning with “Blackened.”

From there, the group turned to the sobering “Nothing Else Matters” before finishing with a fireworks-laced performance of “Enter Sandman.” Bowing alongside his band mates, Hetfield thanked the crowd for a final time.

“I love you, Iowa,” he said.

More: These are the must-see summer festivals and concerts across Iowa

 

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