San Francisco metal band Metallica, consisting of James Hetfield (vocals, rhythm guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Kirk Hammett (guitar), and Robert Trujillo( bass) played the first of two 40th anniversary shows to a sold-out Chase Center in San Francisco on Friday night.

The band had a tall order in front of it coming into these two sold-out shows at the 18,000 capacity venue, and this was far from a hometown show to a faithful crowd of locals. Rather, all of the tickets were sold to longtime “Fifth Members” of the band’s fan club who had traveled from at least five continents. These fans brought high expectations with them, and Metallica would meet them by staging a unique set consisting of material that ran in chronological order and incorporated every era of the band’s four decades through a two-hour, 16-song set.

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Just after 9:00 pm the band’s signature shows-gonna-start song, AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll”, played over the PA system, accompanied by a photo montage of the group through all 40 of its years. This was then followed by the house lights dimming for the preferred walk-on music, the closing theme from Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. At its conclusion the band darted onto the stage, configured in the center of the arena floor’s in-the-round setting it has favored for the last 25 years and blasted straight into “Hit The Lights”—the thrash metal outfit’s statement of original intent which was the first song they’d wrote in 1981 and the first-ever song from their 1983 debut LP Kill ‘Em All on indie label Megaforce Records.

1984’s Ride The Lightning LP was represented by the classic “Creeping Death”, followed by “Trapped Under Ice”—the first of several welcome deep cuts in the set—which hadn’t been played live since June 23rd, 2012 (per 1986’s Master of Puppets also had two songs in the set, with “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” coming first. After a short video that paid tribute to bassists Cliff Burton (killed when the band’s tour bus crashed in Sweden in 1986) and Jason Newsted (who succeeded him from 1986 until 2001), Trujillo would lead the band into the 8-minute instrumental, “Orion”. From there it was onto 1988’s And Justice For All LP, with the deep cut thrasher “The Shortest Straw” preceding signature epic “One”.

Metallica – “Orion” – 12/17/21

[Video: zerocool 18]

1991’s self-titled album (referred to as “The Black Album” by band and fans alike) bore out the mid-paced stomper “Sad But True” and the classic ballad “Nothing Else Matters” before the band headed into their stadium-rock mid 90s era with “King Nothing” from 1996’s Load. Following a second short video in which the band members expressed gratitude for their jobs, each other, and the fans, the biggest surprise of the setlist would follow with the live debut of “Fixxxer”, the slower, dramatic album closer to 1997’s Reload.

Metallica – “Fixxxer” – 12/17/21

[Video: hellawaits77NY]

But just as the crowd was expecting the band to move into 21st-century material, Metallica threw another unexpected surprise at the Chase Center crowd by careening into their manic cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan”, a 1988 B-Side that subsequently appeared on 1998’s Garage, Inc. compilation of old and new cover songs. Next came “No Leaf Clover”, the sole original song written for the 1999 S&M live album recorded with the Michael Kamen-conducted San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The lengthy 16-song set would close with three signature songs from each of Metallica’s studio albums from the 21st century. 2003’s raw, polarizing leadoff track “Frantic” represented St. Anger, while “The Day That Never Comes” held the torch for 2008’s Death Magnetic. The set and the show would draw to a rip-roaring close with “Spit Out The Bone”, arriving in the show-closing spot for the first time ever.

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Unusually for Metallica, there was no encore, though the presence of the mini-videos during the set was also another thing that affected the pacing somewhat. The set overall made a lot of sense and the band took an extended time after playing to thank the crowd for several minutes and bask in the cheers before reminding everyone that the second show was coming in two days’ time. It was a set that managed to accurately represent every era of the band’s career, while also pulling several surprises out of the bag to please even the most demanding fan as the band progressed from oldest to newest material.

Metallica will return to San Francisco’s Chase Center tomorrow, December 19th, for the final 40th-anniversary show. Head to the band’s website for tickets and additional tour dates. Fans can stream Sunday’s show via The Coda CollectionAmazon Music, or Amazon Prime Video. Click here for more information.

Setlist: Metallica | Chase Center | San Francisco, CA | 12/17/21

Set: Hit The Lights, Creeping Death, Trapped Under Ice [1], Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Orion, The Shortest Straw, One, Sad But True, Nothing Else Matters, King Nothing, Fixxxer [1], Breadfan (Budgie), No Leaf Clover, Frantic, The Day That Never Comes, Spit Out The Bone [3]


[1] LTP 6/23/12

[2] Live debut

[3] First time as show closer