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Lars Ulrich On Metallica's Method for Selecting Setlists - Ruin

Metallica‘s drummer Lars Ulrich shares how Metallica chooses their opening setlist. During the ongoing Metallica 2023-2024 tour called No Repeat Weekend for supporting the 72 Seasons album. Let’s take a what’s the approach of Metallica’s choosing opening set openers for each concert.


How does Metallica go about choosing an opener for each night?

The set opener is more than a song; it’s a declaration. It is the starting point for fans’ unforgettable journey with the band. For Metallica, this choice is pivotal. Each tour brings new anticipation and excitement, and the opening song must encapsulate the essence of the tour while exhilarating the audience. Metallica’s skills to feel the moment’s mood and channel it into the perfect set opener is a testament to Metallica’s musical structure. 

If you are curious about the question of how does Metallica go about choosing an opener for each night? During a new interview with The New York Times, Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich answered: 

Lars Ulrich revealed Metallica‘s choosing an opening set for each concert, and he said “Creeping Death” is his favorite.

“This is one we would call a fan favorite, and it’s not one that we always play. It’s got really good energy in the riff, and it sits in a kind of an up-tempo place without being so super fast that it just becomes, like, an indistinguishable roar. But it’s got good accents, good dynamics.

It’s got a breakdown after the second chorus and the guitar solo, where it goes to a shout-along part where James gets everybody pretty engaged.

What makes a good opening song? I mean, ask a hundred people, you get a hundred different answers. So none of this is science. But after a while, you start figuring out instinctively that this song maybe works better than this other song. Often when you are touring on the back of an album, the default is to open with the opening track off the album that you’re touring with. I wanted purposely to not do that, just to sort of challenge ourselves.

Metallica's opening set

Metallica’s opening setlist

Lars Ulrich also talked about how they feel onstage:

“We’re all very open about where we’re at with our moods and all of us dealing with various levels of mental health. And that feels like it’s less of a taboo than it was, say, 20 or 30 years ago.

I think James [Hetfield], increasingly, is very comfortable onstage talking about how he’s doing and how he’s feeling, and often he’ll send ‘Fade to Black’ [Ride the Lightning album] off with some personal thoughts or something that relates to how he’s doing at that moment, in the spirit of sending good energy to people who are receiving it from a place of struggle.

And the takeaway message is that you’re not alone and that we’re in this together. I’m an only child. I’ve struggled with being an outsider and a loner all my life. And, you know, being in a band, playing concerts and all that is the best remedy for me to feel that I’m not alone.”

Lars Ulrich also mentioned about the four drum kits:

“This is the first time we’ve done a 360-degree stage in a stadium setup. We tried to crack the code on that for years. Everything that we had done always had a center point. We were going down this rabbit hole a year ago, and all of a sudden it was like, Well, hang on, why does the band have to be in the center? And then it was like, What’s the opposite of the band being in the center? And that would be the fans being in the center. And that’s when we came up with the doughnut concept, where you play on the doughnut itself and then the fans are in the doughnut hole. And then, well, where do the drums go? Then the concept of the four drum kits – one drum kit in each of the four different directions — came up, and then it sort of went from there.

You know, all this makes a lot of sense when it’s in an email or it looks really good on a napkin. Nine months later you’re in the first venue trying to figure out what the – you’re doing.”

You can watch one of Metallica‘s live opening performances below!

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