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Hard rock acts are ready to roll as they claim the stage yet again

THE higher you climb the harder you fall. Newcastle welcomes two rock acts who know that better than most.

Metallica

THE higher you climb the harder you fall. Newcastle welcomes two rock acts who know that better than most. Simon Rushworth looks forward to veteran thrashers Metallica and former Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins.

FOR those of you who missed it, Metallica are back.

Back to selling millions of albums, back to packing out huge arenas and back to their very best.

Tonight they’re back on Tyneside and promising to unleash one of the most polished and professional heavy metal shows you’ll ever have the pleasure of experiencing.

If 2008 was the comeback year for James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and the gang, then 2009 will be the year when Metallica restore their reputation for good.

Gone are the days when critics and hardened fans alike would sneer at the mediocrity of 2003s St Anger – a poorly mixed record which many believed sounded the death knell for the Los Angeles quartet.

Right now the band is riding high on the back of the dazzling Death Magnetic, the fifth-best selling record in the world last year and oozing with the confidence that comes from reclaiming their thrash metal crown.

If last August’s performance at the Leeds Festival was confirmation that one of the biggest bands of the early 90s had rediscovered its best form, then tonight’s Metro Radio Arena show, sold out for months, is a celebration of a glittering 28-year career.

Mixing pounding tracks from the new record with punchy classics from a bulging back catalogue, Hetfield has long been promising the ultimate Metallica show. It should be something special.

Not so long ago Justin Hawkins was packing out enormo-domes across the world as the charismatic, if misguided, lead singer with retro pomp rock chart toppers The Darkness.

A dangerous drug habit and reliance on the mega star’s crutch of choice – alcohol – served as the catalyst for the band’s demise but these days Hawkins is sober and starting over.

New band Hot Leg entered the album charts with Red Light Fever at a modest 81 last month and headlining Newcastle’s 02 Academy II is a far cry from the heydays of arena sell-outs.

But Hawkins has lost none of the verve and vivacity which made him such an endearing individual first time around.

“People are going to look at the chart position and ask whether I’m disappointed because of where I once was,” says Hawkins. “But it’s not disappointing at all.

“In fact we’re getting T-shirts printed for the tour with 81 splashed across them.

“The music from 1981 is probably the closest to what Hot Leg does anyway so it’s really quite fitting.”

Metallica play the Metro Radio Arena tonight and tickets are still on sale for Hot Leg’s gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy on Friday, March 6.

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