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“M72 Live in Cinemas” review: Metallica's 2-night global concert event captures pure heavy metal magic

“M72 Live in Cinemas” review: Metallica's 2-night global concert event captures pure heavy metal magic

Heavy metal legends Metallica took the stage on a recent sweltering night in Arlington, Texas to the rapid-fire riffs of their 1984 hit "Creeping Death." The track, which details the plagues of Egypt, includes a standout moment in which fans are encouraged to chant the word "die" at the top of their lungs, a long-standing tradition the concertgoers packed into AT&T Stadium upheld with gusto. But they weren't alone — more than 1,500 miles away in New York City's Lower East Side, another mighty crowd was screaming it too, this time at a movie theater screen as they tuned into the band's two-night global livestream, M72 Live in Cinemas.

For the past four months, the San Francisco quartet — lead singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo — have been throwing their own outrageously badass metal festival each weekend with the help of Five Finger Death Punch, Ice Nine Kills, Mammoth WVH, and more on their ongoing M72 Tour. The two-night concert event, billed as a "No Repeat Weekend," features an ever-changing setlist handpicked by Ulrich that sees the group performing more than 30 different songs from their sensational discography, keeping the material fresh for all, even those who had attended previous stops. And while no concert film can ever completely capture the live-wire sensation of getting absolutely pummeled by 200 beats per minute at a Metallica concert, Live in Cinemas still succeeded in delivering a rip-roaring romp filled with old friends, time-tested tunes, a horde of black-and-yellow beach balls getting launched into the sky, and a few unexpected moments of sheer joy.

Metallica
Metallica

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Metallica's Robert Trujillo, Lars Urlich, and James Hetfield perform at MetLife Stadium

Inside the theater, the crowd was split into two categories: those who had recently caught Metallica's weekend stint in New Jersey earlier in August (as evidenced by many of their T-shirts), and those who hadn't. For those who weren't able to see them live (or have plans to see them in the forthcoming year), Live in Cinemas was an excellent way to not only catch up with their favorite band and feel a part of the Metallica Family festivities, but also to witness a crew of world-class artists still dedicated to delivering an unforgettable show more than 40 years into their storied careers. Multiple camera angles ensured that viewers got as up close and personal to the group's musical mayhem as those packed into the stadium's Snake Pit — the interior circle within Metallica's donut-shaped stage — throughout their electrifying, two-hour-plus performance. That proximity was a gem for concert and theater attendees alike, and proved to be particularly relatable whenever a gaggle of onscreen fans — from earmuff-wearing infants to wizened, battle-vest-sporting rockers — began howling and raising their hands skyward whenever Hetfield, Trujillo, Ulrich, or Hammett stomped in front of them.

The theater offered plenty of fun, too. Fans of all ages transformed the events into their own private Metallica festivals by headbanging, singing along, and gleefully running across the aisles as the band tore through classics like "Leper Messiah" and "Harvester of Sorrow" as well as deeper cuts like "No Leaf Clover" and "Dirty Window." In turn, the theater cranked their set up to 11, Spinal Tap–style, with crystal-clear audio quality that allowed viewers to take in all of Hetfield's signature snarls, Trujillo's punishing basslines, Ulrich's furious pounding, and Hammett's wailing guitar solos just as the metal gods intended.

Live in Cinemas also gave their disciples who'd spent a weekend with Metallica IRL the ability to take in some of the show's finer details, like the way Ulrich's four drum kits rise and sink beneath the stage throughout the evening, or how Hammett's fingers fly across the fretboard of his million-dollar guitar Greeny, which once belonged to Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. The event also included a glimpse of the crew member tasked with crouching down in front of Ulrich's dual kick drums to prevent them from being knocked over by the wave of massive beach balls that bounced around the stadium as Metallica ripped through their 1983 hit "Seek and Destroy" and their rendition of "Whiskey in the Jar," the traditional Irish song popularized by Thin Lizzy, toward the end of their set. It also yielded several heartwarming moments between them and their fanbase, including Trujillo jamming alongside a peace-sign-waving toddler and Hetfield signing someone's cast and giving them his armband at the end of the gig.

In case it wasn't obvious: Metallica sounds and performs superbly whether on screen or in the flesh. Following the release of their 11th studio album, 72 Seasons, and the cultural resurgence of "Master of Puppets" thanks to Stranger Things, their passion for the craft was plainly visible on all of their faces as they danced around each other while plugging away on their instruments, smiled and waved at kids in the crowd, and repeatedly affirmed their love for their fans throughout the evening. And, lest audiences forgot, it was occasionally — and charmingly — obvious that the band was really was playing live, as demonstrated by a moment on the second night during which Hetfield accidentally omitted a section of their 2023 hit "If Darkness Had a Son" and, by the time he realized it, it was too late.

"F---ed that one up, sorry!" he said through laughter. "We'll do it again at the next show." The legends then proceeded to shred their parts as originally intended, with Hammett and Ulrich grinning and staring straight into the livestream camera like it was an episode of The Office.

At times, even multiple cameras couldn't properly keep up with the rollicking party playing out on stage. Certain angles would temporarily turn blurry, or unexpectedly cut to another member just before a particular solo audiences would have killed to see. These kinks were largely ironed out by the second night, but at the sacrifice of smaller snippets of crowd interaction and any footage of the mosh pits that bubbled up around the stage. At one point, during the second screening, the Snake Pit was a swirling vortex of bodies, but cinemagoers, sadly, barely caught a glimpse of it.

Still, if you can't make it out for the M72 Tour, or just wished to revisit what is arguably one of the best shows on the road right now, then Live in Cinemas was the perfect feel-good cure-all for any Metallica fan — pure heavy metal magic. B+

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