I’m pretty sure every concert photographer has a bucket list of bands they want to shoot. For the length of my music photography career, the two bands at the top have been Metallica and Iron Maiden. I don’t get jittery in a photo pit very often anymore, but seeing the Metallica branded amps on stage…
My mind was a whirlwind of, “How bright are their lights going to be? Are my settings right? Holy shit, I’m about to shoot Metallica photos. Don’t f- this up.”
Kirk, Rob and Lars came out in mostly shadows with an LED backdrop featuring the cover artwork from #1 US Billboard 200 album Hardwired… To Self Destruct.
James took place behind his mic; the lights were shining and the crowd was insane.
Speaking of crowd… let me just take a second to give out shout out to how dedicated these fans were. Rock on the Range was tormented by unfortunate events this year. Attendees woke up on Thursday morning only to the devastating news of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s death. The band was supposed to headline Day 1 of Rock on the Range. As if this wasn’t a bad enough cloud over the weekend, Friday was put on pause as the entire stadium was evacuated due to inclement weather. The situation repeated itself on Saturday. And just as things had been looking up all day Sunday, the most intimidating downpour of the weekend occurred during Volbeat’s set, just an hour before Metallica was scheduled to play.
Volbeat left the stage, but the ~45,000 fans stayed, befriending neighbors and creating poncho tents. By the time Metallica hit the stage, this is what the crowd looked like. It was nothing short of amazing to see so many dedicated, die hard fans bonding together and standing their ground in the rain DETERMINED to stay and support the bands and music.
Festival organizers worked to extend curfew, allowing Metallica to deliver their full, extensive two hour long performance.
The first half of Metallica’s set was comprised largely of new songs – “Hardwired,” “Atlas, Rise!,” “Now That We’re Dead,” and “Moth Into The Flame.”
After “Moth Into The Flame,” the tunes turned back a few years. “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Sad But True.”
Somehow, the sudden sound of machine gun blasts caught me off-guard. Looking up, fireworks exploding overhead were accompanied by the incomparable, haunting yet beautiful riff intro of “One.”
“Seek & Destroy” rounded out Metallica’s main set. Needless to say, no one there was going home without an encore.
Pyro and fireworks erupted throughout the stadium during “Blackened,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Enter Sandman,” bringing a bittersweet goodnight to the 11th annual Rock on the Range.