It had the ingredients of a once-in-a-lifetime event: A long-awaited stadium opened with a concert featuring an iconic metal band playing an iconic album alongside an iconic orchestra.
Except it was the second time.
On Friday, the Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay made a grand premiere with Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony in S&M2: 20th Annversary Concert.
In April 1999, the Four Horsemen and the orchestra played together at the Berkeley Community Theatre, led by the late Michael Kamen. This time, Edwin Outwater conducted.
“How f*king cool is this? Having this world-class arena in our backyard,” said Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer, to the cheering crowd of 18,000.
Like a tight-knit trailblazing duo, Metallica and the orchestra delivered anticipated tracks: “For Whom the Bells Toll” followed “The Call of Ktulu,” which followed “The Ecstasy of Gold,” the band’s classic entrance Ennio Morricone song. But the setlist did vary from the 1999 live recording of the groundbreaking “S&M.”
Music from the albums “Load” and “Reload” was, for the most part, replaced by more recent, more refreshing “Hardwired…to self-destruct”’ and “Death Magnetic” songs.
“Welcome to this wonderful adventure,” singer James Hetfield invited after the fourth song.
The high-tech setting indeed was adventurous: The arena’s center boasted a round stage that rotated 90 degrees after every five songs. Above it were 360-degree curved screens displaying lights and scenes.
Unlike at the first S&M, the crowd surrounded the stage, where nearly 50 musicians played on the Golden State Warriors’ basketball court.
While some skeptics predicted that Ulrich (often teased for declining drumming) and guitarist Kirk Hammett (sometimes mocked for solo blunders) wouldn’t play challenging songs, that wasn’t the case.Hammett shredded a mesmerizing “Moth Into Flame” solo, reaping the lead guitar with his distinctive whammy tone, and Ulrich was consistently solid.And the melancholic “No Leaf Clover” melody (from “S&M”) wowed the crowd, marking a venture into uncharted territory.
After a 20-minute break between sets, the change became more pronounced.
San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas led the orchestra for a few songs: the second movement of Prokofiev’s “Scythian Suite,” and then Metallica joined in on Alexander Mosolov’s “Iron Foundry.”
Past and present intertwined yet again as “All Within My Hands” preceded symphony bassist Scott Pingel playing (“Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth,” in homage to Cliff Burton, Metallica’s bassist who died in 1986.
Classic songs wrapped up the epic show, as the not-typical metal audience (not everyone wore black shirts and The Wave was done) sang along to “Wherever I May Roam,” “One” and the inevitable “Master of Puppets.”
The much-played “Enter Sandman” ended the night for the uncommon group that’s been packing stadiums for 35 years and has played, twice, with orchestras.