As Metallica hit the road again for another North American leg of their WorldWired Tour, in support of last year's Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct, the band members spoke with Rolling Stone about some of the songs they've been playing each night. "We put together the set list an hour or two before the show," Lars Ulrich says. "Obviously, since we're playing stadiums, it's not like we're gong to bust out the four never-heard-before songs on ReLoad or something. But I usually have all the information about each city we played and what we played last time, so I try to put some deeper cuts in there." Here's what Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo had to say about the set list the band played at its tour kickoff show in Baltimore this past May.
Metallica wrote this track, which bassist Robert Trujillo calls a "perfect song," last for Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct. "It's the realization that, 'I hope my kids have a safe place on this planet,' mostly as a parent but also as a human maturing," Hetfield says. "It's realizing that all of this stuff is out of my control, and yeah, maybe we're fucked. But it summed up in layman's terms a lot of what we're saying on the album, dealing with different parts of humanity – revenge, machinery, the line between convenience and laziness and losing yourself to technology. The lyrics are certainly an over-exaggeration, which we tend to do. Maybe it's about air quality, pollution, traffic, overcrowding, people's lack of respect combined into 'Where is man going?' The way things end up having to balance out is getting more and more extreme. ... And it's fun to say 'Fuck.' Even singing it, it's just a powerful word."
When the band plays this track, off 1997's ReLoad, spires of flame shoot up from either side of the stage. "Our stage set is not small, so you've gotta have 40-foot flames to make it look right in scale," Hetfield says. "I'm a boy in a man's body, so if you could have 40-foot flames instead of 10-foot flames, why wouldn't you?" He laughs. "It's just cool to feel the heat of it. It makes you feel more alive."
"Now That We're Dead"
Metallica bring out giant Taiko drums for a jam in the middle. "The drum-corps thing is my favorite moment in the show lately," Hetfield says with a laugh. "I don't know if it works or not, but I love it, and it's fun, and I've dreamt about doing something like that for a long time. It's been on my list of 'Things to do live' for a long time, and it's finally, finally come to fruition."
"Halo on Fire"
"My other favorite part of the set is the intro to 'Halo on Fire,'" Hetfield says. "It's just me out there and it's total freeform. I'm just making it up on the way out there. I like stuff like that." Hammett also likes seeing the way fans have taken to the song. "I had an idea that that might be a good live song 'cause it has a lot of instances for audience participation," he says. "There's a lot of things that are really accessible that the audience can latch on to, so when we started playing it, people just latched onto it like I expected them to, and it's a really fun to play to begin with."
In Baltimore, Hammett and Trujillo played the Metallica songs "I Disappear" and "Bleeding Me" as a duo during their solo break. Then Trujillo paid homage to Cliff Burton, the bassist who played with Metallica from their debut, Kill 'Em All through Master of Puppets, by performing the bass solo "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)." "It wasn't something that was planned," Ulrich says, referring to the first time Trujillo played it. "One night he just started playing one of Cliff's riffs, and it got such an amazing response. Ultimately, when you're doing that kind of soloing stuff, you want to try to be inclusive rather than, I don't know, show-off–y. So obviously for Metallica fans to be able to hear a snippet of that and give our love and respect, and for Rob to give his love and respect to Cliff and so on, it seems to go down real well."
"Sad but True"
Every time, Metallica plays this Black Album hit, Hetfield asks the crowd, "Do you want heavy?" "We're still on the search for the ultimate riff, the ultimate lyric, the ultimate drum beat, the ultimate bass line," Hetfield says of writing heavy songs. "We found a lot of good ones, but there's still more. 'Sad But True' was just one of those riffs. I remember when we played it for [producer] Bob Rock the first time when we were demoing stuff, trying to find a producer, and he was blown away by that riff. He said something like, 'It's the "Kashmir" of our days' or something.' Like, OK. 'That means good.'
"As for the actual line, 'Do you want heavy?' I think I lifted that from King Diamond," he continues. "There was a live tape of Mercyful Fate in the early Eighties, where he was talking some funny rap onstage about, 'I see some discos out there.' It was broken English, trying to say, 'I see some fans of disco.' So he'd say, 'I see some discos out there. Why don't you get outside. We're here to play heavy. We're going to give you heavy!' And I just kind of borrowed that. It became one of those things before 'Sad but True.'"
"Master of Puppets"
"In 2014, we did a 'Metallica by Request' tour, and the interesting thing is every night of that whole tour – 30, 40 shows – 'Master of Puppets' was the highest vote-getter," Ulrich says. "We were very transparent about how we did it. People could see the numbers, and Master of Puppets was number one for every show. And then 'Fade,' 'Sandman' and 'One.'"
"Seek and Destroy"
The band, including Ulrich, goes out to the center of the catwalk to play one of the first songs they wrote. "We've been on the constant mission of making everyone feel like they're in the front row," Hetfield says. "So Lars had the idea of going out there, and then it felt like, 'Hey, this is kind of like the garage again, and let's play "Seek and Destroy."' It's a good ending to the set. And at the end of the day, it's one of the first songs we wrote. We're all together on this little spot on the stage. It's about the music and the connection." Ulrich says, "Hopefully the idea translates that we're all in it together."
"It's just kinda gotta be at the end," Hetfield says. "It's that song."
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