Could this “Summer Sanitarium 2003” be the last great road hurrah for Metallica? If so, the quartet, which formed more than 20 years ago and has endured numerous well-publicized distractions over the past few years, is certainly going out with a characteristic bang. Following mostly well-received opening turns from four support acts, a sun-baked Coliseum crowd estimated to be in the mid-60,000 range was treated to a brutal and no-nonsense two-hour set of thrash metal from the San Francisco-based group, spanning its career, from opening speed oldie “Battery” to the encore classics “One” and “Enter Sandman.”
Performing on a large elevated set, which somewhat resembled the inside of a gigantic cave, the members of Metallica constantly raced about the stage as they played. They did not interact much with each other, but all four worked hard to make the audience members (some of whom occupied two pits built into the stage) feel as close as possible to the show, even one of such large dimensions.
New bass player Robert Trujillo (Ozzy Osbourne, Suicidal Tendencies) added a needed breath of fresh air to the band’s performance, and his very physical style of play seemed to help energize the core players around him. Where former member Jason Newsted, who quit the band two years ago over creative and business decisions, was a somber and super-intense presence, Trujillo was animated and quite relaxed; he gave the show a distinct sense of fun that had been missing from previous tours.
The group’s latest album, the impressive inward-looking “St. Anger” (Elektra), was represented by only two selections here, including the excellent title track, but that was just fine with the gathered throng, which cheered lustily for plenty of familiar numbers.
Among the highlights were a lengthened version of “Harvester of Sorrows,” with an effective false ending; the anxious “Fuel,” which was accompanied by an impressive fireworks display; and “Creeping Death,” which featured photo and video flashbacks from throughout the band’s history.
Limp Bizkit, with new guitarist Mike Smith (formerly of defunct underground L.A. group Snot), drew a mix of cheers and boos for its hour-plus set of metal hip-hop. Front man Fred Durst seemed to enjoy drawing negative reaction, and more than once he jumped off the stage and ran toward the most pit, as if to physically challenge some of those many attendees who were voicing displeasure with him and his band.