Concert review: Metallica w/ Pantera | 11.03.23, The Dome at America’s Center (with photo gallery)

Photo of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett by Colin Williams

w/ Mammoth WVH

A few blocks away from The Dome at America’s Center, the St. Louis Blues faced off against the New Jersey Devils, adding to the already congested traffic expected in the sold-out former home of the St. Louis Rams. The Dome accommodates just over 66,000 people, leaving many hockey and rock music fans to walk (or Uber) well over a mile to join the crowded streets forming blockbuster lines to their respective venues. This arduous stroll saw Blues jerseys fade to black as Metallica shirts interlaced the crowd, often donned by men with the classic long (now grey) hair associated with rock music since the late ‘70s and ‘80s. 

Thirty-five years ago, rock legends Van Halen and the Scorpions headlined the Monsters of Rock tour with a newly successful rock band known as Metallica opening their set. Eleven studio albums and over 2,000 live performances later, Metallica completed the circle started all those years ago with none other than Wolfgang Van Halen—the son of Eddie—opening for them alongside rock legends Pantera.

Wolfgang Van Halen was destined for greatness in music from birth, and talented genes combined with a hard work ethic have set the frontman up for a successful career in the rock industry. From adolescence, legendary Eddie Van Halen bragged about his son’s talent on guitar, bass, and drums during interviews, and it was only a matter of time before he took to the studio himself and began to carve his own path through modern rock music. Although accompanied by touring members, on record the magic of Mammoth WVH comes from a single source, Wolfgang himself—all of Mammoth WVH’s instrumental and vocal work is composed and recorded by the second-generation rock star. Friday night in St. Louis, Wolfgang fit right in amongst the veteran heavy metal legends of the evening with his clean vocals, methodical riffs, and rich guitar solos. 

As the lights dimmed in the arena, Mammoth WVH took the stage with the ominous ambience of “Night Prowler” by AC/DC playing through the arena speakers before jumping into the six-song setlist with “Another Celebration at the End of the World,” a popular single released earlier this year from his second studio album, Mammoth II. Fans and photographers alike were still trickling in from the crowded streets and lines stretched outside the arena, which added to the chaos of the set. The punctual fans, however, that beat the traffic and chaos outside were treated to Mammoth WVH’s explosive energy that simultaneously combines modern rock with a unique Van Halen flare. Undoubtedly the tight schedule forced Mammoth WVH to choose heavy hitting songs from their two-album repertoire to please their current fans while also using one of the largest venues in St. Louis to acquire new ones. Mammoth WVH finished his set with “Don’t Back Down,” a single from his debut self-titled album, released in June 2021. With two albums over the past two years, Wolfgang is just getting started blazing his own trail in the rock music industry. 

The late Abbott brothers—Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul—initially attempted to join the ranks of Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister in the early 1980s, but the band that would be Pantera found their footing when Phil Anselmo replaced came onboard in 1988. Anselmo brought an intense coarse voice that complemented the immensely talented brothers as well as bassist Rex Brown’s styles within the band. Pantera released a total of nine studio albums and amassed four Grammy nominations before officially disbanding in 2003.  

After the tragic loss of Dimebag Darrell in 2004, any hopes of reformation of Pantera appeared bleak. Dimebag Darrell had earned a spot in Rolling Stones Top 100 Guitarists of All Time and was beloved in the rock community. His brother Vinnie had become a renowned drummer in heavy metal as he continued after Pantera with Damageplan followed by Hellyeah until his death in 2018. While Anselmo and Vinnie Paul’s relationship had improved over the years, a potential Pantera union was still very much in question. In July of 2022, however, Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown decided to keep the memory of Darrell and Vinnie alive, announcing a world tour with Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society) and Charlie Benante (Anthrax) filling the brothers’ respective roles and bringing Pantera’s music back to the stage after twenty years alongside Metallica for an epic world tour. 

St. Louis heavy metal fans packed into the venue, many finding their seats and crowding the rails of the “snake pit” to witness Pantera’s eleven-song set. “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” blared over the speakers prior to the stage lights illuminating Zakk Wylde shredding “A New Level” in front of Charlie Benante’s drum set. The circular stage in the center of the arena gave all of the diehard fans in the snake pit exclusive access mere feet away from the action as members of the band roamed across the stage through the set. Pantera kept the momentum going as they continued on with “Mouth for War,” the first single off of their sixth studio album Vulgar Display of Power while Anselmo worked his way around the stage, giving nods of approval to a singing audience. Midway through their set, Anselmo paid tribute to the Abbott brothers as the stadium screens showed footage of Dimebag and Vinnie while the “Cemetery Gates” intro played to fans waving cigarette lighters and cellphone flashlights in a touching moment fitting for the lost legends of thrash metal. 

Pantera reinvigorated the crowd and began building back some energy with “5 Minutes Alone,” “This Love,” and one of the heaviest metal songs in their arsenal, “Fucking Hostile.” Anselmo maintained his signature stern countenance as he belted out lyrics and roamed around, complimented by the one and only Zakk Wylde shredding original Pantera riffs. Pantera finished their set with hit singles “Walk,” “Domination/Hollow,” and “Cowboys from Hell.” 

 Over forty years after James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich found each other in a newspaper ad and formed what would become Metallica they set out on a two-year world tour to celebrate their eleventh studio album 72 Seasons. Each stop on the tour features two nights of Metallica as they play through setlists unique to each show. Friday, flanked by Mammoth WVH and Pantera, St. Louis was able to experience the first of two explosive nights of rock. Historically, Metallica has spared no expense with over-the-top pyrotechnics and special effects to accentuate their rock show experience. Friday’s show felt different, the band went for simplicity and authenticity, with modest stage lighting and adequate room for all four members of the band to stand directly in front of the fans and engage intimately without distraction.  

Taking the stage right on time, the band dove straight into “Creeping Death” off their second studio album, 1984’s Ride the Lightning. Inspired by a Biblical Egyptian plague, the song features familiar signature deep metal riffs from long-time lead guitarist Kirk Hammett assisted by James Hetfield, and is one of the most performed songs by the band. Metallica ebbed and flowed through their discography in attempts to satiate several generations of fans, performing “Harvester of Sorrow” from 1988’s …And Justice for All and “Holier Than Thou” from their eponymous 1991 record, often lovingly referred to as The Black Album. 

There were no bad seats in the arena as even Ulrich’s drum set moved around the circular stage between songs. Hetfield gave humble thanks to the audience throughout the remainder of the night for the many years of support for Metallica. The show appeared much less choreographed than anticipated as the band members freely engaged rail-riding fans as well as playful banter between members that felt authentic and unscripted. No back tracking or excessive augmentations to their live performance could be discerned, with Hetfield’s voice withstanding decades of use. The setlist for night one seemed meticulously crafted, with the crowd getting favorites including “The Memory Remains,” “Fade to Black,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Sad but True” alongside 72 Seasons tracks like “Lux Æterna” and “Shadows Follow.” 

With an expert team and decades of experience between members, the sixteen-song set felt both too short and perfectly adequate. Hetfield’s charisma along with the band’s genuine enjoyment of being onstage kept concert attendees dancing, drinking, and headbanging for hours. Saving “Fuel” for one of the last three songs felt strategic, as the stage lit up with spectacular plumes of perfectly timed fire balls and demanded the final bits of energy an exhausted crowd had to give. Hetfield asked the reinvigorated audience which song they’d like to close with and patiently waited for the roars to die down before beginning “Seek & Destroy.” The song was accented by enormous beach balls as they fell from the rafters, bouncing between fans and often kicked back from the stage by the band themselves.

Although the band could not possibly squeeze all their years of work and best songs on any single night’s set, they finished Friday’s show with “Master of Puppets,” also referred to by the Stranger Things generation as Eddie Munson’s song. Metallica has earned numerous Grammys over their eleven albums, was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, have been featured in many soundtracks and covered by countless prominent artists. Metallica rode the lightning into St. Louis Friday and delivered an unforgettable night one on their M72 World Tour. | Colin Williams

One comment

  1. Me and 2 Of my daughter’s were there and it was a freaking awesome show.
    If you have more pictures or short clips.
    Would be greatly apprecia.

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