When Metallica exited the stage after their March 2004 performance at the Tucson Convention Center, drummer Lars Ulrich promised the crowd that the band would not wait another 12 years to return. Thanks to KFMA program director Matt Spry, Ulrich kept his promise, as Metallica returned to headline the annual KFMA Day.
The event drew one of Tucson's largest concert crowds in more than 30 years, with nearly 30,000 people selling out the gigantic Pima County Fairgrounds.
Metallica delivered the goods during their 90-minute set. The band managed to smartly balance their well-known radio songs (to please casual fans) with some of their older tunes (to please hard-core fans). Metallica's performance not only lived up to the hype, but the group played tighter than ever, having just finished recording an upcoming album.
Fans chanted for Metallica during the entire soundcheck, and the crowd roared throughout the band's opener, "Creeping Death," with many attendees standing awestruck during lead guitarist Kirk Hammett's blistering solo at the song's climax.
"How are you feeling?" asked frontman James Hetfield. "Well, Metallica is going to make you feel better," Hetfield continued before the band ripped into "Fuel."
While the crowd clapped in sync with Ulrich's bass drum, bassist Rob Trujillo treated the crowd to a short, viscous solo. The solo then turned into the Metallica classic "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which featured Trujillo moving around the stage like a surfing tarantula.
Metallica treated the crowd to songs the band hadn't played in Tucson in nearly two decades. First was "The Unforgiven," from Metallica's monumental self-titled album, which featured Hetfield switching from an acoustic to an electric guitar for the performance. Next was the title track to 1988's ... And Justice for All.
The crowd's singing and headbanging abilities were put to the test during the meaty stomper "Sad but True" and "The Memory Remains."
Lighters and cell phones illuminated the fairgrounds for the ballad "Fade to Black," but the mood quickly changed during the group's next two songs, "Master of Puppets" and "Battery," both played faster than on the classic Master of Puppets.
Earlier in the day, Finland's cello-rock band Apocalyptica had the crowd eating out of their hands, especially during their cover of Metallica's "Seek and Destroy."