By B. Getz
Among the biggest bands of all time, Metallica are no strangers to South American headbangers. The global godfathers of thrash metal have a storied history touring the continent, starting with 1989’s And Justice For All-era jaunt, then returning half-a-dozen more times over their celebrated forty-year career.
After the pandemic forced the April 2020 South American tour to be postponed — not once but twice over the course of two years — Metallica barnstormed back in Spring 2022 for shows in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. The band uncorked a total of six scorching performances to typically teeming crowds, delivering their trademark brand of punishing metal across scalding sets, brimming with Metallica classics.
As 2021 came to a close, guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammet, and bassist Robert Trujillo were riding mighty high off a pair of historic 40th Anniversary shows, a monumental throwdown in their hometown of San Francisco. A one-off Las Vegas engagement in February was the group’s only public performance of 2022 before they headed south of the equator at the end of April.
South American fans are among the most rabid, loyal, and die-hard as they come, traveling long distances at great expense to see their favorite heavy metal and hard rock bands pack their many stadiums, race tracks, and large-scale venues. The reverberations of the two tour postponements were felt far and wide within the region.
Each time the band was forced to cancel their plans, hundreds of thousands were holding onto hope that one day circumstances would allow for Metallica to finally honor these long-promised dates. The last time they’d made it to the continent was for Lollapalooza 2017. Some fans expressed concern that, with the state of the world being what it has been, these concerts may ever even happen.
“For those of you who have hung in there with us over the last 18 months since the original shows were supposed to happen, thank you for your tremendous patience!” the band said in a statement when they announced the rescheduled dates to Spring 2022.
After all of the pandemic uncertainty and delays, as Metallica prepared to take over Club Hípico in Santiago, Chile on April 27th, a torrential rainstorm threatened the show in the hours leading up, only further adding to the suspense that had built for the better part of two years. The concert had already been relocated from a local stadium to a horse-racing track.
To kick off the tour, Metallica launched into one of their earliest compositions in “Whiplash,” a breakneck thrasher culled from 1983’s debut LP Kill ‘Em All, setting the tone with a cut that would serve as show opener for each of the six concerts. Other Santiago highlights included the run’s only rendition of The Black Album deep cut “Through the Never.”
The South America working setlist would run the gamut of their canon; it was primarily weighted towards their famed first five records, with a curveball or two from night to night. Fans could expect to rage to thorough renditions of “Master of Puppets,” “One,” “Seek & Destroy,” “Ride the Lightning,” “The Unforgiven,” among others, plus a double encore sendoff of “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman,” their two most recognizable tracks around the world.
On April 30th, Metallica moved onto Campo Argentino de Polo Buenos Aires in Argentina, for their lone 2022 appearance in the country. Another equestrian venue but, unlike Hípico, located in an urban city, Campo Argentino allowed for local residents to hear parts of the performance from their homes nearby. This night saw the quartet reaching back to 1984 for a ferocious take on one of their most beloved anthems, the seminal thrash masterpiece “Creeping Death.” Metallica saw fit to dust off “Fuel” from 1997’s Reload and “Holier Than Thou” from The Black Album, too.
Asked in 2017 about playing for Brazilian audiences, Hetfield said, “When other people take your art to their heart and you connect with them, there’s always an extra feeling of belonging, of home, of connection, of family. So Brazil is certainly one of Metallica’s most fanatical countries of them all.”
After a few days to relax and regroup, on May 5 Metallica arrived in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to perform the first of four shows in the longtime South American Metallica stronghold at Estacionamento da Fiergs, a venue near the Atlantic coast, at the northern end of the Patos Lagoon. In addition to beloved standards performed every night of the run, the group busted out three tour debuts: the sledgehammer of “Harvester of Sorrow” from …And Justice For All, the furious “No Remorse” from their first LP Kill ‘Em All, and the chilling “Welcome Home Sanitarium” from 1986’s masterpiece Master of Puppets.
Just a couple nights later, on May 7 the group pulled into Estádio Couto Pereira Curitiba, home to the Coritiba Foot Ball Club. Metallica mowed down song after song with a youthful reckless abandon and broke out the Irish traditional “Whiskey in the Jar,” from their Garage Inc. covers album. What made this concert legendary had more to do with the enormous crowd than anything onstage.
Brazilian fan Joice M. Figueiró was 39 weeks pregnant when she attended the Metallica concert. Of course she didn’t mosh or crowd surf, but Figueiro watched from an accessible area, and reportedly had a fantastic time until she started having contractions shortly after the band took the stage. The baby wanted out, and according to the new mom, he arrived as Metallica concluded their set with their biggest hit, “Enter Sandman.” The family even received a congratulatory phone call from James Hetfield after the band got the news.
As Metallica pulled into Estádio do Morumbi in São Paulo, they knew it would be a special night. In what was likely the finest performance of the short tour, the band reached for “Dirty Window,” a deep cut from 2004’s much-maligned St. Anger. The group also performed “No Leaf Clover,” amid the usual tornado of 80s thrash classics.
For the final night of this long-awaited South American tour, Metallica arrived at Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, finishing strong with a torrid set that delivered the goods: the galloping title track to their most recent album Hardwired to Self Destruct, as well as “Cyanide” from Death Magnetic and the treasured “Fight Fire With Fire” from 1984’s Ride the Lightning.
What this last tour stop is likely most remembered for is a tender moment that James Hetfield shared with the crowd, and his bandmates, just before “Sad But True.” “Papa Het,” as the hardcores affectionately call him, spoke vulnerably about aging and performance insecurities. The emotional scene was heartwarming, ending with a group hug that affirmed the brotherhood these gentlemen continue to enjoy and exemplified the undying bond Metallica maintains with their fans around the world.
B.Getz is a music-culture reporter & podcaster hailing from the Philly area who’s called northern California home for nearly a decade. Senior Correspondent at Live For Live Music, longtime contributor to JamBase, formerly with Everfest/Fest300, & host of The Upful LIFE Podcast. Check out all things B.Getz at www.UpfulLife.com