James Hetfield stood before 70,000-plus fans, surrounding him on all sides at SoFi Stadium, and he seemed utterly in awe of the situation.
“I couldn’t have dreamt this,” the Metallica vocalist-guitarist remarked.
Friday’s triumphant show was indeed the stuff of dreams, both for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act and the legions of fans who filled the mammoth Los Angeles to capacity for the first of two sold-out shows to see the band perform in an “in-the-round” setting.
The group returns to SoFi on Sunday to complete the SoCal stand of Metallica’s M72 World Tour, which supports the group’s 11th studio outing, this year’s “72 Seasons.”
The concert was a homecoming show of sorts for the band, which formed back in 1981 in Los Angeles. Of course, Metallica is mostly — and correctly — thought of as being a Bay Area act, since it has spent most of its career living and working in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Unfortunately, Metallica — for reasons that absolutely perplex most Northern California fans — doesn’t currently have a Bay Area date on its lengthy two-year tour. Although, I think that will change and we will see Metallica rocking some local dates in 2024.
A healthy contingent of Bay Area fans did make it down to SoFi, enjoying the band’s two-hour, 17-song performance on Night 1.
The legendary metal quartet — which also includes drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarists Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo — kicked off the evening with a utterly ferocious version of “Creeping Death,” one that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that, 40-plus years into the game, Metallica is still as mighty as ever.
The muscular, full-throttle opener was one of the two biggest highlights of the night. The other also came from Metallica’s second album, 1984’s genre-defining “Ride the Lightning,” as the group roared through a regal version of “Fade to Black” that once again properly illustrated why Hammett deserves to be ranked among the greatest rock guitarists of all time.
In between those two towering achievements of the night, Metallica mixed older and newer cuts, going from the longtime fan favorites as “Harvester of Sorrow” and “The Memory Remains” to a pair of “72 Seasons” cuts, “Lux Æterna” and “Too Far Gone?”
“You guys better look out because Metallica is in a really good mood,” Hetfield told the crowd early in the night. “We came here to kick your (expletive).”
The group pursued that endeavor with gusto, rampaging its way through such metal gems as “Sad but True” and “Hardwired” as fans moshed about on the floor and changed along to the lyrics from all around this amazing venue.
The band worked its magic from on a huge stage erected in the middle of the stadium’s floor. The relatively low-frills stage was hollow in the middle — except for the fans that filled in the hole to get incredibly close-up views of the band — and really resembled a kind of circular catwalk. The musicians, including Ulrich and his kit, moved about the stage throughout the evening, allowing for ticketholders in different spots of the stadium to get better looks at what was going on.
Metallica was really firing on all cylinders as it reached the homestretch, powering through three of its all-time greatest tunes — “Fuel,” “Seek and Destroy” and, finally, “Master of Puppets” — to close the concert.
Fans will be back on Sunday, expecting to hear a completely different setlist on Night 2 of the SoFi stand.
Pantera and Mammoth WVH served as the opening acts on Friday, while Five Finger Death Punch and Ice Nine Kills set the table on Sunday.
1. “Creeping Death”
2. “Harvester of Sorrow”
3. “Leper Messiah”
4. “The Memory Remains”
5. “Lux Æterna”
6. “Too Far Gone?”
7. “Rose Avenue”
8. “Fade to Black”
9. “Shadows Follow”
11. “Nothing Else Matters”
12. “Sad but True”
13. “The Day That Never Comes”
16. “Seek & Destroy”
17. “Master of Puppets”