San Francisco metal band Metallica, consisting of James Hetfield (vocals, rhythm guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar), and Robert Trujillo (bass), played the second of their two 40th anniversary shows to a sold-out Chase Center in San Francisco on Sunday night. As was the case with Friday’s well-received opening show, all 18,000 tickets were sold to the longtime “Fifth Members” of the band’s fan club, which put the band in the position of having to deliver a setlist that would surprise and please the band’s most hardcore fans, who traveled in from dozens of states and five continents. Metallica would pull it off once again through another unique set presented in an in-the-round configuration, whose material ran in reverse chronological order, with the front half of the set bolstered by breakouts of six long-dormant songs before a second half of all-time classics.
The start of the show was nearly delayed when the building’s fire alarms were activated around five minutes before the house lights dimmed and evacuation orders appeared on the arena’s display screens. Fortunately, it was a false alarm and the show started on time, with a Metallica photo montage running during AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll”, followed by a second photo montage narrated by Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello as Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold” played.
Taking the opposite approach to Friday night, Sunday’s setlist ran in reverse chronological order, kicking off with the high-velocity title track of 2016’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct LP, and “The End Of The Line” from 2008’s Death Magnetic, a song that successfully recalls the band’s mid-80s rifftastic prime.
The raw, unpolished St. Anger LP from 2003 was represented by “Dirty Window”, one of the album’s shorter, more direct songs, and was immediately offset by the oscillating, accessible cruncher “I Disappear”, which appeared on 2000’s Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack. From there, the band headed offstage for a short break as a video played of all four band members talking about their favorite cover songs to play, and every cover song Metallica has ever recorded was seemingly mentioned at some point to tantalize the crowd, who were all trying to guess which song from 1998’s 2CD compilation of Garage, Inc might get the nod.
Metallica – “Dirty Window” – 12/19/21
Metallica – “I Disappear” – 12/19/21
Fortunately, Metallica would make one of the best choices of the weekend as Ulrich counted in the full-8-minute version of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil” for the first time since their 30th anniversary shows. This 1980 New Wave Of British Heavy Metal classic would serve as inspiration as well as a songwriting blueprint for the two albums the band would write with bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a tour bus crash in 1986. By the time it was finished, it had visibly changed the energy onstage, with Hetfield in particular projecting in an unusually bright and visible way that went well beyond his current-day “Papa Het” stage persona.
Hetfield’s energy would continue through the next four songs from the band’s mid-90s stadium-rock era and make this section of the show stand out even with what followed it. Reload from 1997 was represented by two songs instead of one, and they’d be both of the album’s staples: the slower sing-along “The Memory Remains”, followed by Hetfield’s signature anthem “Fuel”.
Next up were the last two major surprises of the set, both from 1996’s Load. First was the expansive, suspenseful “Bleeding Me”, a peak moment of the show with Hetfield barking out his lyrics with a level of intensity that made him admit, “That was therapeutic,” to the crowd upon its conclusion. Next up was the underrated “Wasting My Hate”, with each of the previous electric performances of these two songs coming a decade ago at the band’s 30th-anniversary shows.
Metallica – “Bleeding Me” – 12/19/21
The second half of the concert featured more commonly played songs, but all of them were classics: 1991’s self-titled Black Album was represented by the slower “The Unforgiven” and its powerful Hammett solo, along with signature song “Enter Sandman”, whose mid-set placement gave it a novel feel. From there, the most surprising aspect of the second half of the show was that three of the band’s best-loved albums only had one song played, but all of them were winners.
Metallica – “The Unforgiven” – 12/19/21
[Video: zerocool 18]
Mid-paced groover “Harvester Of Sorrow” represented 1988’s …And Justice For All album, 1986’s Master Of Puppets was represented by its epic eight-minute title track, and the offering from 1984’s Ride The Lightning was “Fade To Black”, the band’s first signature slow-buildup song whose suicidal lyrics were offset by a heartfelt mid-song dedication from Hetfield, who advised anyone who might identify too closely with the lyrics that they’re not alone.
The set and the show careened to a slam-bang conclusion with two songs from the band’s 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All—first the signature thrasher “Whiplash”, followed by the direct, straight-ahead chugfest of “Seek And Destroy”, whose street-fighting lyrics haven’t prevented the song from becoming a group celebration in a live setting.
Overall, the band did justice to themselves and their legacy while representing all eras, digging out the deep cuts and still finding room for the classics. However, this night set itself apart from Friday’s opener through its six breakouts in the first nine songs, with the most inspired of those choices prompting Hetfield to deliver one of his most powerful performances in years.
The overall mood was augmented by ongoing horseplay and wisecracking between all the band members as the set progressed, and despite the fact that these were one-off shows, Sunday’s gig had the feel of a well-oiled machine in a mid-tour setting, which was all the more remarkable given how many breakouts were in the set.
After the band took their final bows, Ulrich would get the last word, as usual: “We’re just getting started! We’ll see you soon.”
Setlist: Metallica | Chase Center | San Francisco, CA | 12/19/21
Set: Hardwired, The End Of The Line , Dirty Window , I Disappear , Am I Evil , The Memory Remains, Fuel, Bleeding Me , Wasting My Hate , The Unforgiven, Enter Sandman, Harvester Of Sorrow, Master Of Puppets, Fade To Black, Whiplash, Seek & Destroy
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