Metallica’s 2023 M72 Tour: The Dream Setlist
“No repeat weekend.”
That’s how Metallica has branded the setlists for its upcoming M72 stadium tour, celebrating both the band’s new album 72 Seasons (out April 14) and 40 years of thrash-metal dominance.
Each city stop on the new roadshow — Metallica’s first full trek in four years — includes two nights promising completely different sets, encouraging Metallica lifers to attend both gigs for a deep dive into the band’s maniacal catalog.
As the tour kicks off in Amsterdam April 27, we’ve been fantasizing about what a given night will look like — and which songs will make the cut during which show. Surely, as James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo exit a city, there will be a consensus among fans as to which night offered the better gig.
Of course, it’s a matter of opinion. The most devout diehards would be happy with a set more focused on deep cuts and credence given to ‘83’s seminal Kill ‘Em All debut, celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, while the multi-generational Metallica families would be down to hear more off 2016’s explosive Hardwired … To Self-Destruct. And of course, there’s the contrarian who actually wants to hear stuff off St. Anger.
With all of this, here’s our dream setlist for the tour; a best-case-scenario M72 set, taking into consideration the band’s past tours — and leaving enough meat on the bone for night two. The setlist below would clock in around two hours, in step with their massive Hardwired tour that ran from 2017 to 2019.
“Fight Fire With Fire”
In this dream, Metallica saves more of the 21st Century stuff for night two and instead buckles down on the fan-beloved oldies, a commitment made apparent immediately. As the stadium fades to black (get it), an acoustic, almost baroque guitar melody begins to blare from the PA. The band takes the stage, Ulrich leads them in with some big, extended cymbal fill and boom — Hammett’s first godkiller riff gets the place moving.
“Trapped Under Ice”
The band does not pause, does not welcome the crowd, not yet. Instead they remain in 1984 with another Ride the Lightning shredder, thrilling elder fans who attribute their hearing loss to seeing the band about 10 too many times. Some wild winter scene plays out on the Jumbotron, with an abominable snowman emerging from a frozen lake. He inexplicably breathes blue flame; no one bats an eye.
We’ll give “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and “Orion” to night two and here harness the maximum octane of “Disposable Heroes,” the night’s first offering from Master of Puppets, with its forever-relevant barkings of the horrors and futility of war. “Back to the front!” the crowd roars. It’s largely been Hammett’s show so far as the solo on “Heroes” is pure guitar triumph, noodling its way to hell as a warzone rages on the big screen.
“Wherever I May Roam”
Okay, back to the Black Album fan favorites and another titanic sing-along, as fans get the heartiest Hetfield “yeah-yeah”s of the night so far. It’s also a relative break for the band; less demanding parts, steadying them for what’s to come.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
The stadium goes dark again, momentarily, as the band catches its breath amid the cheers of 60,000 fans. Then the monster video screen illuminates once more. It depicts an unholy black church built into a mountainside. The camera zooms in to focus on the belltower. The bell begins to ring. The crowd shrieks as Trujillo begins the famous bass melody, passed from the late Cliff Burton to Jason Newsted to him. Trujillo does his funny crabwalk thing as Hetfield hammers the mammoth vocal. If this rendition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is anything like the beast brought to stadiums on the Hardwired Tour, the crowd bellowing “Take a look to the sky just before you die/ It’s the last time you will!” will be enough to send fissures through the parking lot asphalt. An unlucky Kia Optima tumbles into the abyss.
Hetfield talks to the crowd for the first time and plugs the new album 72 Seasons, asking how many in the audience have bought the new album. Everyone screams in affirmation and they are indeed telling the truth — metal fans still buy records! And so the band launches into the only new track on the night, the searing and fun lead single “Lux Æterna” — which unloads its stadium-ready chorus as people sing along, without a clue of what “Lux Æterna” actually means. A few dudes who drank their Bud Light tallboys a little too fast run to the bathroom.
The best song off their preceding LP Hardwired … To Self-Destruct (and a 2018 Grammy nominee for best rock song) comes hurtling through next, with a riff and drum crash that beats the crowd into submission. Meanwhile, a 50-foot tall Atlas — Greek mythology’s eternal shoulderer of the heavens — inflates behind the band, holding a globe large enough to be rented as an AirBnb. Yes, Atlas literally rises! Fans gawk as the song’s hard-rock-and-blues chug soldiers on.
For the next 80 minutes or so, nothing released in the last 25 years is referenced. Everything is for the graying diehards, beginning with the mammoth march of “Creeping Death.” The call-and-response “die!” chants force a helicopter flying overhead to be diverted. Fans don’t yet know this is the last Ride the Lightning track of the night — “Fade to Black,” the title track and “The Call of Ktulu” are saved for night two — but that’s cool, there’s much hell-raising still to be had. So let it be written!
“Harvester of Sorrow”
As far as … And Justice For All goes, we’re also fine giving “One” and “Blackened” to the inferior second night, and providing an underappreciated track for the real fans in “Harvester of Sorrow,” for which the bass is turned up so loudly it nearly cracks a few fans’ sternums in the front rows. The relatively simpler riff allows for steady headbanging. A few more casual fans make one last run to the beer stand to find out it’s about to close — the true harvesters of sorrow!
An acoustic guitar is brought out. Everyone takes a breath. No one is willing to admit they’re thrilled to sit a spell as the Black Album power ballad kicks in. Hammett still annihilates the solos, of course.
Hetfield schmoozes with the crowd a little, asking whoever’s drunk to throw up their devil horns. Heavy metal, man! The frontman then begins to note how the band’s seminal debut album Kill ‘Em All turns 40 in July, and to celebrate, they are going to play a mini-set. The next 15 minutes are pure speedfreak bedlam, beginning with the aptly named “Whiplash,” backed by the band’s oldest photos plastered on the big screen, surrounded by bloody hammer iconography. They were just kids!
“The Four Horsemen”
Onward with the galloping riffs! Around the stadium, the know-it-all friend of every group is sure to point out how Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine co-wrote the song before he was fired. Luckily no one can hear them over the solos, which signal intelligent life in nearby galaxies. Everyone is thrilled, as “Four Horsemen” has been only scantily performed over the last decade.
“Seek and Destroy”
The band ties a pretty, pulverizing bow on Kill ‘Em All with the album’s most enduring, well-known track — it feels like home for fans who’ve been with them since their mighty Megaforce Records beginnings, sleeping on floors in New Jersey. Everyone sings the repetitive hook and cheers once the big Judas Priest-y solo begins to unfurl.
“King Nothing” (with Phil Anselmo)
As the mini-set concludes, a jewel-studded crown appears on the screen, rotating gloriously as it descends onto the skull of a festering zombie — night two can have “Fuel,” we’ll take this killer third single from Load, with its incendiary hard-rock chorus. To boost the track, the band welcomes fellow metal god Phil Anselmo (Pantera is opening the tour) to the stage, for some extra fury. The song gives way to an extended outro with a snippet of “Walk” as the stadium’s foundation quakes.
The band turns “Battery,” usually used as a set or encore opener, on its hurtling head, closing the main set with a final burst of pandemonium. The acoustic riff hypes the crowd and then Hetfield, under a spotlight, unleashes that famed, punishing riff. Hammett delivers the knockout blow with one of the best solos in his pantheon and band trots off. No fans dare leave, knowing what’s still to come.
ENCORE: “Master of Puppets”
After a few moments and requisite “Metal-lica!” chants, the foursome re-emerges. Hetfield has swapped his sweat-soaked black t-shirt for an identical (albeit dry) black t-shirt. And then it hits: Dun … dun-dun-dun! The stadium erupts once more, let’s go! The cosmic “Master! MASTER!” sing-along tears a chasm into the fabric of time and space, shifting dimensions and laws of physics. Puddles of Michelob Ultra form floating helixes throughout the concourse, frightening concession workers. The Kia Optima rises from the Earth’s molten core to its rightful parking space.
“Nothing Else Matters”
The stadium returns to this plane as Hammett strums those open strings, summoning the night’s final power ballad. Fans know the night is slowly coming to an end, but no one wants to believe it as they wail the iconic chorus: “Never cared for what they do! Never cared for what they know-ow-owwww!”
Hetfield shouts that they’ve got one more, and promises to “see you for night two!” before unloading metal’s most recognizable riff. It’s a party, a finale, a storm of thunder and bursting flames from the pyro cannons. In this moment, no one is sick of “Sandman” anymore, happily barking “exit light, enter night!” Though once Hetfield reaches the spoken prayer part, all the dads begin to file out, hoping to beat the traffic. But then they miss the extended outro, with pieces from “Frayed Ends of Sanity,” borrowing from the Hardwired Tour.
It’s an unforgettable night of metal prowess, and a culmination of one of rock’s bar-none most untouchable acts of the last half-century. But who knows — maybe the real tour will be even better than this fan-fiction fever dream. We’ll be counting the days!
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.