When it was announced last September that Metallica would play Ireland’s biggest and most prestigious venue, it could be fair to say that Metallica fans were more than a little trepidatious. Slane, after all, has been graced in the past by the likes of U2, Queen, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen to name but a few. Throw in an exorbitant ticket price, a (let’s be honest) fairly weak support act and the fact that the venue is a right pain in the arse to get to and from, and Slane could have been far from full.
In the end though, these concerns were proven to be unfounded as a huge crowd – estimated at 75,000 – descended upon this small village in County Meath. By the time Worship Metal had trundled into the grounds of Slane Castle, Ulsters favourite punks, Stiff Little Fingers were about to take the stage and, it pains us to say it, this was a case of wrong band, wrong gig. The still growing crowd had little interest in what was going on and the thin sound robbed them of their potency . Next up were satanic, Swedish dandies Ghost who, thankfully, benefitted from a fuller sound. Whilst a summers evening may not be optimal viewing conditions for Cardinal Copia his Nameless Ghouls, but the likes of “Rats”, “Ritual”, “Year Zero” and “Square Hammer” received a great reaction as the crowd finally came to life .
Shortly before 9pm, “The Ecstasy Of Gold” erupted and Slane Castle’s crowd went several shades of mental, and no matter how many times you hear it, this opener still gets the hairs on your arms standing on end. After ten years (nine if we include Belfast), Metallica were finally back on Irish soil and ripping into “Hardwired To Self Destruct“, quickly followed by “The Memory Remains”; which had 75,000 out of tune concert goers taking over Marianne Faithful’s backing vocals. For over two hours it was clear that in the eyes and ears of the vast crowd, Metallica could do no wrong. Their cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey In The Jar” went down an absolute storm and any band that can string together a run of songs as monumental as “One”, “Master Of Puppets”, “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and a devastating “Creeping Death” are always going to be on to a winner!
In all honesty, this wasn’t a perfect gig. A few too many overlong new songs hampered the flow and we really could do without hearing “Enter Sandman” again. However, the sheer delight and joy emanating from both the crowd and the band was infectious and the fact that this was, in all likelihood, a once in a lifetime experience made this a night to truly remember. It’s also worth remembering that for those of us sick of hearing the likes of “Sandman”, “Sad But True” etc, for many thousands of younger fans this was their first time hearing these songs live…..and they deserve to hear them. No matter your thoughts on their more recent output, Metallica always pull out the stops in the live setting and, on this occasion, they really were kings of the castle!