Metallica have shared professionally-shot footage of two songs from the band’s recent concert in Saudi Arabia. The band’s performance from Riyadh on Dec. 14 attracted significant international attention, and was Metallica’s final show of 2023.
The band’s inaugural Saudi appearance came as part of Riyadh’s Soundstorm Festival, which also featured headlining sets from 50 Cent, Swedish House Mafia, Travis Scott and J Balvin. (Kanye West was initially announced as a last-minute performer, though he subsequently withdrew just days later.) Initially, the group’s performance was hyped as the first ever live appearance from an international metal band in the Gulf kingdom, though death metal band Cryptopsy edged them out by two weeks.
Featured on Metallica’s YouTube channel, the videos show the Bay Area veterans tearing through 1986 anthem “Master of Puppets,” as well as the hit power ballad “The Unforgiven,” from the group’s 16x-platinum 1991 self-titled album.
Despite pre-concert speculation that the band would be forced to omit certain tracks from its repertoire in the conservative Muslim country, Metallica’s 16-song set was not significantly different from the band’s setlists at previous festivals this year, with staples like “Creeping Death,” “One,” “Sad But True” and “Seek & Destroy” all present and accounted for.
The performance came at the end of the second leg of Metallica’s M72 World Tour, which sees the band performing pairs of concerts in each city, with an entirely different setlist for each night. Metallica’s August performance at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium set a record for the largest attendance at the venue. The Riyadh performance was not the group's only festival appearance this year, with Metallica also headlining Download Festival in the UK and the three-day Power Trip festival in Indio, Calif. The tour is in support of Metallica’s 2023 album 72 Seasons, which debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. album chart in April, and is currently up for three Grammy Awards.
"We're not done with 2023 just yet, as an amazing opportunity has just come our way to perform at a major festival that we have never played in a part of the world we rarely get to visit,” the group said in a statement announcing the Riyadh performance.
Even if Metallica were not officially the first Western metal band to perform in Saudi Arabia, the group can still add the gig to its list of groundbreaking live performances in territories that have previously seen little of its style of music. In 1991, Metallica famously performed for more than half a million people at a military base in Moscow, as part of the first free open-air rock concert in the country's history, organized shortly after the failed August Coup during the final days of the Soviet Union. The group also orchestrated a concert in Antartica in 2013 (dubbed, appropriately, “Freeze ‘Em All”), making them putatively the only band to perform on all seven continents.
The M72 Tour resumes next May in Munich, with a swing through Europe followed by more engagements in North America, ending with four shows in Mexico City next September.