Concert Review: Metallica Helping Hands Concert Gives In More Ways Than One

Metallica singer James Hetfield during Helping Hands Concert

That was (mostly) awesome.

Love them or forget them, call them a sell-out or it was over after 1989, call them what you will, but Metallica knows how to put on a show whether live in person, at the drive-in or on TV in the comfort of your living room.

Metallica held their first ever live stream concert on Saturday afternoon performing a largely acoustic set inside their “HQ” to raise money for the band’s All Within My Hands foundation that supports hunger outreach, workforce education programs and disaster relief, among other charitable ventures.

The performance, billed as the Helping Hands Concert & Auction, wasn’t fully acoustic, certainly not an unplugged performance, but definitely helped fill the massive void created by the coronavirus pandemic that put a halt on live performances earlier this year with little hope in sight of returning to a normal touring schedule.

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Dealing with the cards handed to all of us, Metallica rather casually played a 14 song setlist in just more than two hours with the first eight songs done acoustically before a short five minute break with the guys returning and letting the amps loose.

About 30 minutes of various videos highlighting the All Within My Hands foundation and the projects Metallica supports through their charity served as the “opener” before the cameras projected live on Metallica surrounded by walls of individual TV screens of those fans who paid for the VIP experience to be “on stage” with their heavy metal heroes.

Kirk Hammett (L) and Lars Ulrich (R) during live stream Helping Hands Concert

Metallica All Within My Hands Concert Review

Metallica, accompanied by two additional musicians one helping out on keyboards and the other on mandolin, began the show with a “Blackened” you’d barely recognize. Singer James Hetfield straddled an acoustic guitar and, yes, the show was stripped down but guitarist Kirk Hammett worked an electric and bassist Robert Trujillo was plugged in but not with their usual fare. Drummer Lars Ulrich pretty much stuck to business.

It sounded raw and unfiltered, just as you’d expect from a live concert, the audio quality exceptional, and the start almost bluegrass for a time before they dove into “Creeping Death” which also sounded nothing like the original but Hammett still managed to shred the fret. Hetfield’s vocals for the Deep Purple cover “When a Blind Man Cries” fully owned this one and their classic “Unforgiven” always works well whether in full gear or on this night.

Metallica had never tried “Now That We’re Dead” in the acoustic form to which Hetfield said “That turned out pretty cool” upon its conclusion and indeed it worked well and was a far different version from what you get when spinning their latest Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.

Their cover of “Turn the Page,” outstanding, then eclipsed by “Nothing Else Matters” both slower arrangements that work well when stripped down. Metallica closed their acoustic set with, (I’d Hope so), “All Within My Hands” before leaving the stage and returning, fully ready to rock.

James Hetfield exchanged his acoustic guitar for the electric during the second set of the Helping Hands concert

“We’re going metal,” Hetfield said. “We’re doing it heavy the acoustic version way.”

A totally different approach to “Disposable Heroes” emerged, somehow heavier but nothing like the original, then Metallica tackled “House of the Rising Sun” and turned this original – only rehearsed once – from The Animals into a near brilliant heavy metal version. A solid rocker in “Wasting My Hate” off Load followed and Metallica finished with how-they-were-meant-to-be played straight-up versions of “For Whom the Bell Tools,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Enter Sandman.”

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Metallica interacted with the fans “on stage” ad nauseum. It got old quick but understandably the four of them enjoyed the socially distanced “meet and greet” as they do seem genuinely touched by their wide swath of fans. A few shout outs here and there – they reached out to some they obviously knew – would have sufficed.  But the band members spent an excessive amount of time between every song, except one, to say “hi” or find out the representative countries which fully interrupted the show’s flow and just irritated. A few more songs to the setlist easily replaces star struck fans with little to say, screaming babies and sometimes bad connections.

Anyway, somehow, someway Metallica manages to break new ground in their musicianship and stage performance. They’ve come along ways since their speed metal days but can still bring a blitzkrieg while embracing a technical track that forces them to mellow up without losing their identity.

The first half of the Helping Hands Concert, provided a different glimpse into the band of Metallica, by removing the loud pulsating energy of a regular concert but showed the unrealized versatility of heavy metal music. Don’t forget either, these guys, in many respects, relearned songs in a whole different sound and structure, an undertaking that will only serve them well in the future ,as they record new music and eventually perform again on a normal stage, and something that may help Metallica prolong their career as their 40th anniversary approaches.

Metallica Helping Hands Concert Setlist:

  1. Blackened
  2. Creeping Death
  3. When a Blind Man Cries
  4. Unforgiven
  5. Now That We’re Dead
  6. Turn the Page
  7. Nothing Else Matters
  8. All Within My Hands
  9. Disposable Heroes
  10. House of the Rising Sun
  11. Wasting My Hate
  12. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  13. Master of Puppets
  14. Enter Sandman