Setting the Stage: The first night of Metallica’s two 40th anniversary shows at in San Francisco’s Chase Center delivered a strong career-spanning set, so expectations ran high for Night 2 a couple of evenings later (Sunday, December 19th). Once more, no special guests were present for this final performance (unlike their 30th anniversary concerts), but quite a few setlist surprises occurred.
Similar to the first night, the setlist was constructed in a manner that featured a tune or two from each album chronologically. But, this night, instead of starting from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All and running through 2016’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, it was set up in reverse order, starting with the band’s last album and finishing up with selections from their debut.
Taking the Stage: As with the first night’s performance, before all the headbanging fun began, the arena-sized crowd was treated to a mini “Metallica story” on a giant screen above the stage. But this time, it was narrated by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello (actor Jason Momoa did the honors the first evening).
Once the video ended, images of all four Metallica members — frontman James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Robert Trujillo, and drummer Lars Ulrich — appeared on the screen (taken from the Hardwired album cover photo session), before launching into said album’s rapid-fire title track.
The band members were sporting attire similar to the first night (all black), except for Hammett, who broke the dress code by modeling a red jacket. Unlike the first night, in which fans hoisted up flickering wristbands at the conclusion of the opening number, this time, the entire crowd was spotlighted by white lights.
Next were a trio of tunes that had not been performed on stage by the band in a long time — “The End of the Line” (Death Magnetic), “Dirty Window” (representing St. Anger), and “I Disappear” (from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack). Early in the evening’s performance, Hetfield repeatedly addressed the crowd as “family.”
After a brief video bit about how cover tunes proved crucial in Metallica building their sound early on, the band launched into Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” As a special treat, the entire tune was performed, as the song is often truncated when played live due to its extended length. Similar to the first night, this was the tune in which audience members were given wristbands that flashed mini-lights, and once more, guitar geeks undoubtedly took note that Hammett was playing his cherished Greeny 1959 Les Paul.
Hetfield then asked the crowd, “Are you guys ready to sing?” before launching into the mid-paced “The Memory Remains” (with images flashing on the screen above the stage of the four members in old-style picture frames). It turns out that the capacity crowd was indeed ready to vocalize — particularly, the part that Marianne Faithfull sang at the end of the studio version.
Up next was one of Hetfield’s favorite tunes to play live: “Fuel” (as mentioned when they are constructing a setlist in a scene from Some Kind of Monster). The stage production for this number appropriately featured giant gusts of skyward fireballs at several different points. The following songs were a rollercoaster of tempos. “Bleeding Me” brought things down a few notches before “Wasting My Hate” amped it up and “The Unforgiven” dialed it back down again.
For the homestretch of the performance, Metallica focused on the classics, starting with “Enter Sandman” (which saw the reappearance of the flickering wristbands in the audience), followed by “Harvester of Sorrow” (preceded by another mini-doc… about the band’s connection to sports!), “Master of Puppets,” “Fade to Black,” “Whiplash” (during which Hammett wielded an instrument he was not previously associated with — a white SG), and closing with the longtime fan favorite, “Seek & Destroy.”
As with the performance 48 hours earlier, an extended “thank you” from the band took place after the last song — nearly 10 minutes of the band sauntering around the stage and acknowledging fans, who at one point, started chanting for the band to play more. All four members would say a few things into Hetfield’s “Elvis mic” before taking a bow and departing.
All in all, these two special 40th anniversary performances featured strong sets, despite the lack of any special guests. If anything, they show why Metallica are still in a league of their own, especially when it comes to finding unique ways of offering fans specially constructed shows and not just regurgitating the same old setlist time and time again.
Catch the two 40th anniversary performances coming soon to Prime Video and Amazon Music. See the second night’s setlist and video highlights below.
Setlist (Night 2):
The End of the Line
Am I Evil?
The Memory Remains
Wasting My Hate
Harvester of Sorrow
Master of Puppets
Fade to Black
Seek & Destroy