Saturday night, the threat of thunderstorms lurked over Atlantic City. How fitting it was that Metallica would be playing their “Ride the Lightning” in its entireity that day. Though no storms ended up showing, thousands of fans did for the evening’s festivities. Many took time between seeing bands to check out the Metallica Museum – featuring memorabilia such as instruments used in the band’s recording process, “Kirk’s Crypt” – a display of Kirk Hammett’s horror memorabilia, featuring a Q&A session with the guitarist, several showings of Lars Ulrich’s “Hit The Lights” film – also featuring a Q&A session, and a custom car show which was visited by Mr. James Hetfield himself.
However, once it was time for Metallica to hit the stage, hundreds of thousands of people lined up at the main stage on Bader Field. Metallica, performed some of their most well-known songs before seguing into Ride the Lightning. However, the band flipped the album’s order backwards on the setlist. Some speculate it was to get “Escape” – a song in which the band has never played live – done and over with. When it came time to play that song, the crowd went wild – although James Hetfield did not hesitate to express how much he disliked the song, it seemed as if it was a “for the fans” moment. “You asked for it, now here it is,” the singer said before starting the song.
Horns were raised high up in the air that night at Bader Field. Before the encore, a fireworks and pyrotechnic display blinded the abandoned airfield, not to mention the use of fog machines. Metallica then closed the night with “Seek and Destroy”, dedicated to fallen band member, Cliff Burton. It was clear the band had felt the festival was a dream come true. It wasn’t until 20 minutes after their set was completed that they left the stage. They stayed, throwing picks, drumsticks, black beach balls, and even thanking the crowd over and over again. Hetfield even expressed how great it felt to be alive, and that the festival was a dream come true for the band.
Sunday began as a hot and humid day, with no cloud cover to give the overheating – yet determined – fans a break. From the moment the gates opened, a mass of Avenged Sevenfold fans gunned themselves toward the Fuel Stage. Many had felt a near torturous wait ahead of them as the bands came and went. A Place to Bury Strangers had taken the stage first, and left many in the crowd aggravated with the sight they had seen. A few members of the audience described it as an hour-long jam session, which included the guitarist throwing his very beat up across the stage on multiple occasions and the bassist playing a bass that wasn’t just out of tune – but only had two strings.
Kirk Hammett then came out to introduce the next artist, whom he cited as one of his current favorite guitarists, Gary Clark Jr.. It seemed to be another jam session, however Clark’s skillful playing was much more tolerable. The crowd even started a chant, and two deaf/hard of hearing fans were even given the opportunity to stand next to the stage and dance – clearly enjoying themselves.
Once it was time for Volbeat to hit the stage, after an introduction by James Hetfield, the crowd became much bigger and much more tight. While Volbeat had a large fanbase present, and an enjoyable set, it was clear that the Fuel stage’s headliner drew in most of the crowd.
Thousands of fans had gathered around the stage when it was time for Avenged Sevenfold to hit the stage – making it genuinely unbelievable that they weren’t playing the main stage. Friend and fan of the band, drummer Lars Ulrich, had come on out to introduce them. Once again opening with the lead track to their 2010 release, “Nightmare”, the crowd automatically went crazy. Mosh pits opened and crowdsurfers kicked the heads of those ahead of them. During “Critical Acclaim”, you could easily catch members of the band pointing to the sky during the late Jimmy Sullivan’s vocal tracks. The band, being fans of Metallica themselves, were visually excited to not only be playing the festival, but seeing the “Four Horsemen” themselves. The band took no breaks, due to their one hour time slot, and kept the energy flowing. playing a much similar, but shorter setlist to two days prior. Once again, it was announced that they were filming this set as well for their upcoming DVD, driving the crowd nearly barbaric during “Unholy Confessions”. An unstoppable flow of crowdsurfers made their way toward the stage, and the most massive mosh pit opened up, squashing everyone in its path. It’s safe to say that Avenged Sevenfold’ s final set of their Nightmare cycle was a bittersweet, yet successful one.
As for Metallica’s closer of the festival, the setlist was very much similar to the previous night’s – with the addition of the Black Album rather than Ride The Lightning. The weekend closed out with another incredible fireworks/pyro display. Overall, it was a very successful, enjoyable, and legendary weekend for heavy metal.