Metallica has played some memorable gigs in Pittsburgh, Pa. over the years, starting with their first area appearance in 1988 as part of the Monsters of Rock package tour with Van Halen. In total, they’ve notched 11 appearances in the Steel City, including a stop at Three Rivers Stadium in the summer of 1992 on their co-headlining run with Guns N’ Roses.

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Here in 2022, even more fans are discovering the San Francisco band thanks to their classic epic “Master of Puppets” being featured in the current season of Stranger Things. One needed to look no further than the merch stand to see the group’s acknowledgement of the moment: They were selling Metallica Hellfire Club t-shirts in honor of Eddie Munson, one of the newest members of the Metalli-verse.

But their latest chapter in Pittsburgh stood firmly on its own merits -- and the incredible catalog they’ve built across what is now nearly 41 years of road work. The band came loaded for bear -- it’s a power move, after all, to drop one of your biggest songs, 1991’s “Enter Sandman,” only three songs into the set.

Metallica started the night at PNC Park with one of their oldest songs, pulling the fiery “Whiplash” from their 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All. James Hetfield set the tone for the evening’s performance, snarling out the vocals into his distinctive bullet mic as a light rain began to fall. The staging was both minimal and epic with the group’s signature lightning bolts anchoring each side of the massive stage and giant video screens ensuring all in attendance would have a good view.

Watch Metallica Perform 'Whiplash' in Pittsburgh

The triple combo of “Whiplash” paired with an equally brutal take on 1984’s “Creeping Death” and the previously mentioned “Sandman,” helped to burn away the precipitation for the remainder of the night. As it turns out, perhaps God is a Metallica fan.

While there was some frustrating crackling on Hetfield’s vocal mix throughout the performance -- including several points early on where the vocals dropped out altogether -- the band’s collective energy onstage found them powering through their chosen mission of absolute rock or bust. The nearly two hour set list, spread across 16 songs, did an admirable job of working in material from the bulk of their catalog.

“Dirty Window,” from 2003’s St. Anger, was at first glance, an odd choice, yet it’s also one which has become a set list staple in this summer’s shows. But from the moment drummer Lars Ulrich's rat-a-tat-tat percussive opening kicked in, paired with heavy, crunchy guitars from Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett, the tune quickly revealed itself as yet another heavy anthem finding its place in the Metallica catalog. “I definitely wore my pick out on that song,” Hetfield joked at the conclusion.

Some of the moments in the Pittsburgh performance were more serious. As he’s done during a number of the more recent shows, Hetfield used the midway point of “Fade to Black” to check in on the “Metallica Family” and share some important words. “We’ve all felt darkness before, right? That’s what this song is about,” he told fans. “It’s about something we’re not supposed to talk about. We’re not supposed to talk about suicide, right?”

“Because it’s scary,” he continued. “It’s really scary. Everyone here’s been touched by it in one way or another. We all struggle and we all know what darkness is. If you are feeling like you need to take your own life, please do not. Please wait. Please talk to somebody. Somebody loves you, know this. There is someone who will listen. And I love you, no matter what. No matter what you’ve done, you are not alone.”

Watch Metallica Perform 'Fade to Black' in Pittsburgh

By the time they hit the encore section of the night, Metallica was still blazing at full speed, airing out the classic “Battery” with a well-timed blast of pyro at the head. Bassist Robert Trujillo dug ferociously deep as if it was the first song of the night. Appropriately, “Master of Puppets” put a triumphant wrap on the three song encore and the group's 2022 touring season. But the band members were in no rush to leave the stage, savoring the moment, shaking hands and celebrating the end of their latest chapter as fireworks shot up into the sky behind the stage.

Fans will have at least one more chance to see Metallica this year when they make an appearance at the annual Global Citizen charity event in September.

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