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It's official: Metallica own 2021 with surprise-packed setlist at 40th anniversary shows

Metallica San Francisco 40th Anniversary gigs
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

2021 has been a massive year for Metallica. Between the enormous 30th anniversary celebrations for The Black Album and 40th anniversary celebrations for the band as a whole, we've barely been able to move in the metal world without James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo popping up on a near-daily basis. Whether it was the release of all-star covers album The Blacklist, colossal shows at Louder Than Life and Aftershock or licensing Nothing Else Matters for use in the Disney movie Jungle Cruise, Metallica made 2021 their own with a typically leviathan sense of scale, things coming to a head this past weekend when they took over San Francisco for a weekend of celebrations in the Bay Area where it all began. 

Playing to almost 20,000 people a night, Metallica pulled out all the stops to make sure their setlists were positively packed with surprises, rarities and utterly mammoth anthems that affirmed their status as metal's biggest band. It was a far cry from the surprise gig they put on in San Francisco back in September, but fans were no less enthusiastic for seeing the band take up residence in the arena  environments again. 

Watch footage from the December 17th show below:

Playing a total of 36 songs over the two sets, Metallica peppered each show with surprises to delight the hardcore contingent, firing out the usual behemoths like Creeping Death or Sad But True whilst slipping in the likes of Ride The Lightning classic Trapped Under Ice (played for the first time since 2012), Death Magnetic ballad The Day That Never Comes and the live debut of Load/Re-Load-era tune Fixxxer on the first night of the weekend.

Day #2 was even more rarity-packed, a triple-blow early in the set of The End Of The Line, Dirty Window and I Disappear each making a return up to a decade since they last figured in a Metallica set. Working chronologically back through their discography, the band played songs from every album starting with the title-track of 2016's Hardwired... To Self Destruct and closing on perennial favorite Seek & Destroy from 1983's Kill 'Em All

Live streamed via Amazon Prime, Metallica's huge 40th anniversary celebrations were joined by fans from around the world, all paying tribute to one of the most iconic bands on the planet. 

Check out the setlists - and some choice pics from Instagram below. 

Metal Hammer line break

Metallica 40th Anniversary setlist Night #1 (December 17th)

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

Metallica 40th Anniversary setlist Night #2 (December 19th)

Hardwired
The End Of The Line
Dirty Window
I Disappear
Am I Evil?
The Memory Remains
Fuel
Bleeding Me
Wasting My Hate
The Unforgiven
Enter Sandman
Harvester of Sorrow
Master Of Puppets
Fade To Black
Whiplash
Seek & Destroy

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.