WEST VALLEY CITY - Metallica was always a well-oiled touring machine in the band's wildest years, rolling through the world's arenas with a military precision rarely seen in rock 'n' roll.
Metallica circa 2004 is older and more sober, but the explosive approach remains, even at the end of 17 months nonstop on the road. Monday's E Center show featured a quartet well-focused - often ferociously - as Metallica delved into a set list touching on all eras of its 23-year career.
The potent opening blast of "Blackened" set the pace for the evening. The song, from the late '80s, combines thrash and metal with the atomic guitar riffs that helped the band storm the mainstream in the '90s
With drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Rob Trujillo powering the hectic pace, guitarist Kirk Hammett unleashed the first of countless tasty solos that soared above the heavy throb of the rest of the band.
After a rapid-fire run through "Fuel," with the members taking full advantage of the large mid-arena stage, singer James Hetfield introduced "The Memory Remains."
"I've got to warn you Salt Lake City, Metallica is in a very good mood," Hetfield announced. "Are you?"
Apparently so, because the audience let the band stop "Sad But True" mid-song for the sake of a film crew shooting a movie of the tour, picking right up with its enthusiasm as the band picked right up to finish the song.
"The Unforgiven" got the lighters waving as Hetfield picked out the intro on an acoustic guitar before delivering one of his best vocal performances of the night.
When the show hit the portion Hetfield called "The part where we do whatever," Metallica unleashed a full-throttle "Leper Messiah" from the band's classic "Master of Puppets" album, an angry scream at TV evangelists and bogus moralists.
Metallica launched its first encore with the thick riffing of "Wherever We May Roam," with Hetfield still in fine, growling form, and Hammett squeezing sparks from his guitar strings.
They slowly segwayed into "Nothing Else Matters" as Hetfield joined Hammett, then replaced him onstage to lead the singalong. Hetfield hardly needed his microphone for the frantic "Master of Puppets" that followed, as the crowd completely took over the vocals.