Watch the moment Metallica swapped instruments on stage and Lars Ulrich showed he'd actually make an awesome frontman

Lars singing and James on drums
(Image credit: Twitter)

Metallica have never been a band afraid of trying something a little different. Be it playing in Antarctica, curating their own festival or producing their own movie, they've thrown themselves into more risky scenarios than most bands have songs.

In that spirit, it's perhaps no biggie that, on more than one occasion over the years, the Four Horsemen have thrown caution to the wind right in the middle of a show and swapped instruments. Why? Because Metallica, that's why! It's a brilliantly fun, spontaneous trick that they've pulled at a handful of gigs over the years, from Lars and Kirk swapping instruments in Bologna in 2003 to the duo doing it once again in San Diego ten years later. In fact, you can go all the way back to the 80s to find evidence of such shenanigans - there's a grainy video on YouTube of Metallica trading jobs at a gig in 1989 in São Paulo, Brazil. 

Perhaps the most (in?)famous example of it happening, however, was on stage at a show at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California on February 13, 1992. During the second of three encores that took Metallica's show to a whopping 24 songs (including covers and medleys), the band all swapped instruments for a riotous version of Diamond Head's Am I Evil? - with James Hetfield on drums, Kirk Hammett on bass, Jason Newsted on guitar and, most memorably, Lars Ulrich on vocals.

"Check this shit out, man, this is fucking bad!" yells an excitable and topless Lars. "This is my Bruce Dickinson impersonation, OK? Check this out, motherfucker!"

Lars then proceeds to sprint around the stage, wild-eyed and pointing at the crowd like an old pro while snarling and spitting his way through I Am Evil? with a decidedly punk rock take on the track's vocals. The most impressive thing of all? Lars is actually pretty damn good in that role, and James does a respectable job trying to hold it down on the drums.

Maybe we shouldn't have been too surprised that the experiment kinda worked. Back in 2016, Metallica's original manager, Jonny Zazula, revealed to us that, for a brief spell, Metallica considered making Lars the frontman of the band.

"Lars and I planned a lot of stuff. But James wasn’t the most confident of singers. I don’t think he felt comfortable," he revealed. “At one point there was even talk of Lars becoming the frontman. For about five seconds.”

Metallica recently revealed that they'll be playing a special 80s-themed show in honour of Zazula and his wife Marsha, who passed away in 2022 and 2021 respectively. The show will take place November 6 in Hollywood, Florida, with a setlist built around Metallica tracks from 1983 and 1984 only.

The show will also feature support from NWOBHM legends, Raven. Presale information for the concert is available here: Hard Rock Live Ticket Information | Metallica.com (opens in new tab).

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.