Tucson Convention Center, Wednesday, March 3

After Metallica bassist Jason Newsted quit in January 2001, and booze drove front-man James Hetfield into rehab, things didn't look so hot for the monsters of mayhem. But it takes more than a little drinking problem to keep a real headbanger down.

Hetfeld regrouped with drummer Lars Ulrich and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and recruited former Suicidal Tendencies/Ozzy Osbourne bassist Robert Trujillo to knock out St. Anger, a ball-breaking return to their metal roots with "Some Kind of Monster," "Dirty Window" and "The Unnamed Feeling."

If there were any doubts the band could still rock, Metallica laid 'em to rest when the band hit the Tucson Convention Center to a capacity crowd, the night after launching the Madly in Anger With the World tour in Phoenix.

On a rotating stage, Metallica opened with the classic "Blackened," from 1988's ...And Justice for All, followed by a blazing pyrotechnic display with "Fuel."

"It seems that Tucson brought some anger to be released tonight," Hetfield said as the band launched into "Frantic" from their new album. It was an evening to release a lot of pent-up rage as Metallica kicked maximum ass.

"In case you forgot, we're Metallica," Hetfield reminded fans who hadn't seen the band in Tucson for nearly a dozen years. The faithful didn't need their memories jogged. During "Nothing Else Matters," from the band's self-titled 1991 album (aka "The Black Album"), Hetfield stopped singing and let the crowd take over. During "Creeping Death," from 1984's Ride the Lightning, the unprompted crowd began chanting "Die!" during the climax.

Even the TCC's limited acoustics couldn't slow down Metallica. Hetfield's and Hammett's crunching guitars, Ulrich's heart-rupturing drum beats and Trujillo's howling bass combined to sound like a drunk bishop slamming a Hummer into a school bus full of nuns.

After more than two hours of blistering rock (including three encores), the show shrieked to a close, with Hetfield promising that it wasn't just a one-night stand: "Remember Tucson, Metallica loves you, and we will see you soon."

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