If Jason Newsted's first show with his new band was a warm-up gig, somebody's going to get hurt before this tour is over.

The former Metallica bassist debuted his new band, Newsted, over the weekend at Red House, in his adopted hometown of Walnut Creek. And if anyone thought Newsted was going to approach this as anything short of the most important gig of his life, they realized they were wrong about 30 seconds in.

Despite only having a handful of songs officially released, Newsted gave a couple hundred fans 90 minutes of loud, sweaty, relentless, headbanging metal. His band, which includes guitarist Mike Mushok of Staind, was especially tight and purposefully raw for a first gig.

Newsted himself -- in what could be considered his first real performance as a professional frontman (not including on and off again side project Papa Wheelie) sounded like he ravaged his vocal chords by show's end. After more than a decade away from Metallica, which included gigs in Voivod, Ozzy Osbourne's band, and other projects, one got the feeling Friday that Newsted has finally found the place he belongs.

Newsted's material is solidly rooted in Britain's new wave of heavy metal from the late 1970s and early '80s, which isn't surprising, since that sound was so important to Metallica's early development. But where Metallica has strayed stylistically from this (and hit speed bumps while trying to regain its roots the past decade), Newsted the band sounds like it's rooted there. That was clear on Newsted's face which, when not contorted in its familiar, intense scowl, showed more smiles Friday than at probably any other gig in his life. He was engaging and relaxed with the crowd, especially when someone from the crowd tossed him a 1990s-era Jason Newsted action figure.

"This guy's all hair, man," the now short-haired Newsted said, before making the figure mock-headbang.

Music-wise, Newsted controlled the action on stage, while allowing himself to be turned loose musically.

Simply put: he rocked.

By fourth song "Soldierhead," the crowd was completely invested in the show. The band slipped into the savagely-catchy "Godsnake" which showed that, while Newsted will never be confused with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, his voice is more than up to handling the material.

The band -- which also includes guitarist Jessie Farnsworth and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. -- got better as the night went on. The original material is nasty and aggressive, which makes up for the lack of a singable chorus here and there. But one gets the feeling the songwriting will get better. The powerful "King of the Underdogs" came off like a song Metallica would gladly take for its next record. It will likely play well at the summer European festivals the band will play later this year).

And speaking of Metallica (again), predictably, one of the night's biggest moments was when Newsted dipped back into his old band's catalog for a vicious version of "Whiplash." After the dramatic original "Skyscraper," Motorhead covers ruled the encore, appropriately aggressive versions of "Love Me Like a Reptile," and "(We Are) The Road Crew," featuring soaring leads from Farnsworth and Mushok.

By night's end, a few people in the crowd looked nearly as sweaty as the band. Which was probably Newsted's goal all along. At 50 years old, the bassist/singer obviously has a new career ahead of him.

For more details on Newsted, go to www.newstedheavymetal.com for more details.