By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the biggest acts in rock music proved it could still spring a surprise on fans Thursday when Metallica quickly sold out intimate San Francisco club the Independent hours before the band’s first live performance with an audience in nearly two years.

Metallica plays surprise show at the Independent on Sept. 16, 2021 (credit: Brian Lew)

Both the band and the venue announced the show via their respective social media accounts Thursday afternoon, stating that the Independent box office would be selling the $20 wristbands for entry to the concert for cash only starting at 3 p.m. The 500-capacity venue made it clear that they would be abiding by San Francisco’s proof of vaccination requirement for indoor events.

Within a half an hour, all the available wristbands had been snatched up by fans who got the word and were close enough to beat the rush.

Though the group was founded by guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich in Southern California (second guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney rounded out the early line-up), Metallica would establish deep Bay Area roots after recruiting bassist Cliff Burton, who said he would only join the group if they relocated to the Bay Area in 1982. After the acrimonious departure of Mustaine prior to the recording of their debut album Kill ‘Em All, the band further solidified its Bay Area ties by adding local product and Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett.

Metallica plays surprise show at the Independent on Sept. 16, 2021 (credit: Rob Goszkowki)

The Independent show Thursday night was packed with fans, family and friends who were lucky enough to either get to the venue box office to score one of the coveted wristbands or were close enough to Metallica’s inner circle to get on the guest list. Members of fellow Bay Area thrash band Death Angel and Murder in the Front Row co-author Brian Lew were among those spotted in the audience.

Despite the fact that the band recently reissued its landmark self-titled fifth album (aka the Black Album) from 1991 in a lavish box set that includes numerous extras including live and demo recordings, that effort was not the focus of Thursday night’s set list with only two songs played (“Sad but True” and “Holier Than Thou”).

Metallica plays surprise show at the Independent on Sept. 16, 2021 (credit: Brian Lew)

Instead, the band drew heavily on its seminal second album Ride the Lightning — playing four songs from that record — while opening and closing with tunes from their beloved debut Kill ‘Em All, playing “Whiplash” start the show off and perennial singalong favorite “Seek and Destroy” to close out the set.

Metallica plays surprise show at the Independent on Sept. 16, 2021 (credit: Rob Goszkowki)

Metallica reunited with the San Francisco Symphony in September of 2019 for the inaugural concert at Chase Center, it’s last show in San Francisco. Those performances were filmed and recorded for S&M2, a sequel to the band’s earlier collaboration with the symphony in 1999.

The band is headlining at a number of music festivals this fall, including two nights Aftershock 2021 in Sacramento next month. Metallica is also scheduled to return to Chase Center in December for a pair of shows marking the band’s 40th anniversary that were announced in July.

Full Set List

“The Ecstasy of Gold” (taped Ennio Morricone intro)
“Whiplash”
“Ride the Lightning”
“The Memory Remains”
“Now That We’re Dead”
“Holier Than Thou”
“No Leaf Clover”
“Sad but True”
“Moth Into Flame”
“Fade to Black”
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
“Creeping Death”
“One”
“Master of Puppets”

Encore
“Battery”
“Fuel”
“Seek and Destroy”