Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (2023)

Singer-guitarist James Hetfield paused midway through Metallica’s concert at SoFi Stadium on Friday to share a memory stirred as he walked past a giant Metallica logo backstage before the first of two shows there this weekend.

“It’s a logo I scratched out on a napkin in Norwalk, I don’t know, about 15 miles from here,” Hetfield told the crowd, many of whom were wearing that iconic design on T-shirts new and old. “It went from a napkin to here.”

Hours before the show, drummer Lars Ulrich, who with Hetfield formed Metallica 42 years ago, talked backstage on KLOS-FM/95.5 with DJ Matt Pinfield about his own memories of those early days, Ulrich driving from Newport Beach to meet Hetfield in Norwalk to jam and dream and plan for a future that against all odds eventually came true.

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (1)

    Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (2)

    Kirk Hammett of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (3)

    Pantera performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (4)

    Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (5)

    Kirk Hammett of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (6)

    Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (7)

    Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (8)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (9)

    Phil Anselmo of Pantera performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (10)

    Charlie Benante of Pantera performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (11)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (12)

    Fans of Pantera crowd surf during their performance at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (13)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (14)

    Pantera performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (15)

    From right, James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (16)

    Pantera performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (17)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (18)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (19)

    Kirk Hammett of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (20)

    James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the first of two nights at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, August 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

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Later, bassist Robert Trujillo would introduce “Rose Avenue,” an instrumental he and guitarist Kirk Hammett performed, as a riff and a jam they created on that street a few miles to the west in Venice.

So make no mistake: Metallica has been based in the Bay Area for most of the past four decades, but to the guys in the band and the fans in the stands, these are homecoming shows, a return to streets and freeways, the rehearsal spaces and tiny clubs, where Metallica began.

All of which made a night that would have thrilled in any city feel just a bit more special as Metallica roared through 16 songs in two hours on stage.

“Creeping Death,” the single from 1984’s “Ride The Lightning,” kicked off the set, the song racing through its tale of biblical plagues before hitting a slower, heavy midsection during which the stadium echoed with fans singing “Die! Die! Die!” It’s a powerful show-opening, immediately pulling the crowd out of their seats to fist punch the air to the visceral wallop of the beat.

The M72 World Tour, named after “72 Seasons,” Metallica’s 11th studio album released in April, has a few twists to make it different than any of the band’s previous tours.

It plays two nights in each city on the schedule with no songs repeated in either of those shows, which means fans who buy tickets for both nights get 32 unique songs, while those who only catch one show only get half as many. (In concrete terms, that means one night closes with “Master of Puppets,” the other with “Enter Sandman,” both fan favorites, they’re usually played in every show.)

The production of the tour is also a new wrinkle for Metallica. The stage is a large oval, with fans on the floor inside and around it, placed at the center of the field. Every four songs, the perspective shifts in counterclockwise fashion, giving the audience on every side of the stadium a chance for a closer, head-on perspective.

After the opener, Metallica stuck with older, deeper cuts in its catalog. “Harvester of Sorrow” kicked off with a thumping martial beat, slipped into a Hammett guitar solo, took a long dramatic pause, and then roared back to life. “The Memory Remains” unfolded with a slower, grinding groove, the fans singing loudly on its chorus of whoas.

The first two of three “72 Seasons” songs in the set, “Lux Æterna” and “Too Far Gone,” showed up just before the midway point in the show, the first of those impressive most for its instrumental fury, the latter for its roaring melody.“Rose Avenue” gave Hetfield and Ulrich a break as Trujillo and Hammett jammed.

“We all have good days, we all have bad days,” Hetfield told the crowd before “Fade To Black” kicked off with its lovely guitar intro. “Hope this is a good day for you, but remember, you are never alone.”The song, which was Metallica’s first ballad when it arrived in 1984, remains a wonderful number all these years later, its lyrics of hope amid despair a powerful message.

It’s clear the band love playing it still, too. As Hetfield joked at the end of it, “After 185 years of being in this band I still love that song.”

Another highlight of the middle of the set arrived with “Orion,” a multi-movement instrumental that featured Trujillo on bass – the song was written by the band’s former bassist Cliff Burton, who died when its tour bus crashed in 1986 – as well as a lovely twin guitar section that placed Hetfield and Hammett face to face as they wove solos around each other’s playing.

The final third of the show delivered more of the bigger, crowd-pleasing hits in the set. “Sad But True” served up heavy, crunchy riffing that set the crowd into a headbanging, fist-punching frenzy. “The Day That Never Comes” opened with Hetfield picking a gentle melody as he sat on a stool on stage before blossoming into a bombastic metal epic.

The last three songs served as an encore in a set that didn’t formally have one. “Fuel” blazed through its pyro-enhanced tempos with Hetfield’s vocals a guttural roar. “Seek & Destroy” took the show back to Metallica’s 1983 debut album “Kill ‘Em All.” The song and album both landmarks in the early rise of thrash metal, it sped gloriously as giant yellow-and-black beach balls – like, these bad boys were as tall as some of the people trying to wrangle them – bounced slowly over the crowd.

“Master Of Puppets,” which regularly places at or near the top of lists of greatest metal songs of all time, closed out the night. “Obey your master!” the crowd sang at the appropriate places in the lyric.

Written as a warning of the control that drugs can take over one’s life, on Friday, the master was Metallica, the drug a collection of songs that, new or old, have the power to move listeners more than four decades after Hetfield and Ulrich got together in Norwalk and on a napkin, in a garage, sketched out a future for this iconic band.

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Metallica reflect on humble Southern California beginnings at sold-out SoFi Stadium show (21)

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