Metallica played its first gig 30 years ago

It’s not a date that most metalheads have memorized, and sometimes you wonder how many bands can recall exactly when they played their first show.

Thirty years ago on March 14, 2012 Metallica played its first show at a club called Radio City, which is long gone today.

The set was mostly covers with two originals, Hit the Lights and Jump in the Fire. As Guitar World reminisces, the band’s setlist was as follows: Hit the Lights, Blitzkrieg (from the band Blitzkrieg, which like Am I Evil many thought was really a Metallica jam), Helpless (the Diamond Head song that opened their Garage Days EP), Let It Loose (a cover from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Savage), Sucking My Love (another Diamond Head cover), Am I Evil (ditto), The Prince (yet another Diamond Head song), and Killing Time (a Sweet Savage cover, guitarist Vivian Campbell’s band before he joined Dio).

In the early days, Metallica’s sets were packed with covers, and the band figured no one would be the wiser. Once they went up North to San Francisco, the fans up there recognized the bands they were covering, and adopted Metallica as their own hometown boys.

When Metallica played its first gig, James Hetfield was only singing on stage, he wasn’t playing guitar live yet, and they had their first bassist,  Ron McGovney, who was of course later replaced by Cliff Burton. Burton was also the reason they moved up North because he refused to come down to L.A., and considering the Metallica guys hated the hair band scene of the time, and weren’t getting anywhere down here, it was a welcome move.

Hetfield recalled in Kerrang that at Metallica’s first gig: “There were a lot of people there, maybe 200, because we had all my school friends and all Lars’ and Ron’s and Dave’s buddies. I was really nervous and a little uncomfortable without a guitar, and then during the first song Dave broke a string. It seemed to take him eternity to change it and I was standing there really embarrassed. We were really disappointed afterwards. But there were never as many people at the following shows as there were at that first one.”