Words + Photos by Frank Ralph

You can hear the juggernaut that is Metallica rolling into town for weeks if not months before it arrives. This date has been marked in many calendars for a long time with the excitement reaching fever pitch hours before the headliners take the stage with fans filling the streets of Manchester for a pre-gig pint.

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Norwegian stoner punks Bokassa are great and put on a solid show with their sense of humour shining through on stage. Their short set is enjoyed by everyone who is there but they suffer the fate of many openers at events like this where they play to a sparsely populated arena because many fans, other than the true diehards, are only interested in seeing the headliners and spend the majority of the time at the bars until they come on.

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Even Ghost who are a massive draw in their own right suffer this to some degree with a lot of seats still empty as they performed a wonderful theatrical set.

This is the first time I’ve seen them with new leader Cardinal Copia and he’s a revelation. He’s definitely more ‘showbiz’ than his predecessors with his red suit and Freddie Mercuryesque leg flicks – stalking the runways that protrude from the stage and getting up close with his congregation.

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The Nameless Ghouls are one of the greatest sights in rock with their uniform silver masks and black suits and they create some of the most ethereal music around. For my money they’re one of the best bands around, but the spectacle is much, much better in a darker setting. As far as occultists go though Ghost are by far my favourites.

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As the spine tingling, goose bump inducing sound of Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold rings out from the massive stage Mother Nature decides this is the time for the heavens to open. In fact, this gig could easily be rechristened Wetallica at the Wetihad as Manchester does what it’s been known to do on many an occasion. It rains like only Manchester can.

One thing Mother Nature needs to learn though is that raining on metal heads is a pointless and futile exercise. It doesn’t help them grow any taller and it certainly doesn’t spoil any of their fun. Not one bit. This weekend’s Download festival should be ample proof of that.

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Stop. Raining. On. Metal. Heads. It’s. Pointless.

Launching into Hardwired to Self Destruct Metallica look to be full of energy and aggression and deliver an epic nearly 3 hour set to a now full stadium.

Having caught the first leg of the WorldWired tour at the arena and thinking that was all kinds of epic, seeing the scale of the stadium set up, it kind of dwarfs what we’d seen previously. With a huge stage with four giant screens bookended by the M and A from their logo and runways circling the VIP pit it’s a massive spectacle in every sense.

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With highlight after highlight they don’t let the weather affect them at all. The Memory Remains segues into Disposable Heroes as they take us on a winding journey through their 40 odd year career.

There are obviously songs missing that you’d want to hear and songs that they simply HAVE to play at every show, so they satisfy fans both old and new with classics like One, Master of Puppets and Sad But True and a nod to the host city via Kirk and Rob jamming their way through I Wanna Be Adored thrown in for good luck.

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Closing a set with Seek and Destroy, Lords of Summer, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman is an ending as strong as any band could ever wish for and it’s huge.

There were fans for whom which this was their first live music experience and there were fans that have travelled the world following their idols. Each and every single one of them will have had the times of their lives regardless of the wet conditions.

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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