What sets apart the best Metallica concerts from the live performances of others is that Metallica has yet to let fame get to them. No matter how famous they get, you will still see them perform at some of the smallest venues ever, like the basement of a music store. Here are 10 of the best Metallica concerts of all time:
An Overview of Metallica’s Live Performances
The top 10 Metallica concerts of all time are as follows:
- Radio City in Anaheim, California (1982)
- The Stone in San Fransisco, California (1983)
- Seattle Leg of the Damaged Justice Tour (1989)
- Tushino Airfield in Moscow, Russia (1991)
- San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, California (1992)
- Wembley in London, UK (2007)
- The Basement (Grimey’s) in Nashville, Tennessee (2008)
- Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria (2010)
- Download Festival in Donington, UK (2012)
- Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey (2012)
What Makes a Metallica Concert ‘The Best’?
Our criteria for evaluating the best Metallica concerts took into consideration several factors. These included audience size, rare moments, nostalgic concerts, their very first performances, the first time they would sing a track, and so much more. We would also go through the Metallica fan pages to understand what performances are still being watched back or remembered even today.
Iconic Metallica Concerts: A Journey Through Time
Metallica has been performing for about a quarter of a century, so it’s only fitting that we go through them from the oldest to the latest. They are as follows:
1. Radio City in Anaheim, California (1982)
There is no doubt that Metallica’s first concert ever is one of their most memorable performances of all time. The band had their debut performance at Radio City in Anaheim, California in 1982. And it was this concert that began it all. Without it, who knows where the band would be at today?
Since this concert was way back in 1982, you can’t expect there to be any recordings of the performance. In a way, you can already tell that since mobiles didn’t have cameras back then, everyone was more focused on enjoying the live performance than recording it as they are now.
James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Dave Mustaine, and original bassist Ron McGovney were in the lineup back then. Many of you won’t believe it, but back then, Hetfield was focused solely on singing since he hadn’t started playing rhythm guitar yet. The band sang two originals and nine covers at Radio City.
2. The Stone in San Fransisco, California (1983)
Bassist Cliff Burton hadn’t been with Metallica since the very start. In fact, he only joined them in 1983, and the live performance at The Stone in San Fransisco, California, in 1983 was the first concert with Burton present as well.
While Ron McGovney was a great bassist, we can’t help but adore how well Cliff Burton fitted into the group. It’s sad to think that this was his first-ever performance in Metallica. And his life was cut short when he died in the bus crash.
3. Seattle Leg of the Damaged Justice Tour (1989)
Fans of Metallica know that the Damaged Justice Tour was one of the longest tours the band has ever had. And most fans would agree that the Seattle leg of this tour in 1989 is one that you can never forget. The performances were filled with energy despite the death of Cliff Burton.
What is great about this concert is it’s probably one of the earliest ones caught on film. This was the tour where the band came back bruised and broken. However, they were ready to take on the world once again after the death of Burton. Fans were nostalgic but overjoyed seeing their favourites return on stage.
4. Tushino Airfield in Moscow, Russia (1991)
We obviously had to include one of the biggest concerts of all time on this list as well. Metallica performed at the Monsters of Rock concert at the Tushino Airfield in Moscow, Russia, in 1991, which will forever go down in history books as a concert that over 1.6 million people attended.
Other appearances also included AC/DC, Pantera, and The Black Crowes. If you look at the line-up of artists and their setlists, you wouldn’t even be surprised that they managed to turn up as huge of a crowd as they did.
What we loved about this venue was how grand of a stage it had. This allowed the bands to put up one of their best performances ever.
5. San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, California (1992)
Let’s say you’re a Metallica fan, and you had the option only to own one live recording of all their performances. In that case, there’s a very good chance that you chose the recording from the performance at the San Diego Sports Arena in California in 1992. This recording took place after the huge success of The Black Album. It would also combine two performances that took place between 1992 and 1993.
6. Wembley in London, UK (2007)
This performance took place in the middle of the band’s Sick of the Studio European tour, and fans continue to praise it even today. There is no doubt that this is probably their best European performance yet. The band was able to shake the stadium to its core. And they finally got rid of all the hateful comments from people telling them that age was finally catching up to them.
7. The Basement (Grimey’s) in Nashville, Tennessee (2008)
Metallica doesn’t just perform in the biggest venues around the world; they also perform at some of the most intimate ones—one of those being The Basement in Nashville in 2008.
The Basement only has a capacity of 150 people, and it sits below Grimey’s New & Preloved Music store. Metallica wanted to give everyone the complete underground experience, and they released live recordings on both CD and 10-inch vinyl at independent record stores.
What we love the most about this performance is that they went from performing at Grimey’s one day to performing at one of the biggest music festivals in the country called Bonnaroo the next.
8. Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria (2010)
In perhaps one of the most epic moments in metal music, the Big Four of the thrash subgenres—Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer, and Anthrax—all performed at the same concert in 2010. Most people would assume that being from the same genre would make them rivals, but they get along very well.
The first performance for all of them together was actually in Poland the same year. However, they decided to redo it for a recorded version in Bulgaria. This performance will forever be known as one of the most electrifying performances they’ve had in quite some time. On top of that, the bands came together for one historic rendition of “Am I Evil?” by Diamond Head.
9. Download Festival in Donington, UK (2012)
More than 20 years after releasing their eponymous fifth album, the thrash metal band returned to Donington to play the album in full for an enraptured 100,000 crowd who understandably ignored the false claims for attention from YouMeAtSix to see the classic album relived.
The band has been playing together for two decades. As usual, the album was played in reverse before non-album classics returned with rabble-rousing Seek and Destroy performances with some suitably exciting fireworks.
10. Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey (2012)
No talk of Metallica’s awesome live performances is complete until you discuss the opening night of the first annual Orion Music + More festival. Held at Bader Field in Atlantic City, Metallica put together a huge two-day festival full of classic cars, horror memorabilia and non-stop music.
There was no doubt that history went down that night as Metallica decided to play Right the Lightning in its entirety. And they inevitably did it in reverse as well. But you’d be surprised to know that this wasn’t the most mind-blowing part of the night. That part came when the band decided to give Escape a shot. This was a song that had never been played live until that very moment.
Where to Experience the Magic: Upcoming Metallica Concerts
- Visit the tour section of Metallica’s website.
- Scroll down to view all the upcoming tours for 2024.
- The first leg of the tour is in Europe.
- The second leg will cover the United States and Mexico.
- Purchase an Enhanced Experience to get free merch, VIP front seating, and backstage passes.
Metallica’s European leg of the tour comes highly anticipated since it has been a while since they last toured in that region.