This summer, Metallica will embark on not only their first real U.S. tour in eight years, but their first in over a decade touring stadiums in North America. "I'm just excited about the fact that that's still possible to go out and play stadiums 36 years into a career and that people give a shit," drummer Lars Ulrich tells Rolling Stone. "It's going to be awesome."
Ulrich says that playing two one-off stadium gigs last year – at San Francisco's AT&T Park and Minneapolis' US Bank Stadium – showed the group that they could still draw larger venues in the U.S. as they tour in support of last year's Hardwired … to Self-Destruct. "It was like, 'Holy fuck, people really still care about this band in ways that you stopped taking for granted literally decades ago,'" he says. "It was very inspiring and kind of eye-opening.
"Full stadium runs can sometimes be a little intimidating," he continues. "There's all these things to worry about like, 'You should really try to play maybe only on the weekend,' and, 'Where do you play on Tuesday?' and some of those practicalities can get a little bewildering. We just threw caution to the wind. Doing a stadium run seemed like the perfect thing on the back of how well this record has been received and all the good will that's out there in Metallica's world right now."
Accordingly, the tour, dubbed WorldWired, will run from mid-May through mid-August and hit major cities the group has not played in close to a decade. (Tickets go on sale this week.) Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat and Gojira will variously open the show at different dates, with Metallica ratcheting up their stage production.
"You want to make the shows into events," Ulrich says. "We've got a few things, obviously, that are tied into the record and a few different bits and tugs that's gonna make it fun."
"We've got a couple of things up our sleeves," he continues. "I don't want to give it all away, but we're playing a few stadium shows in Mexico in about two weeks' time, and we're gonna be using what we did up in Minneapolis as the springboard. It's about size and spectacle, but there's a little bit of a minimalist approach to it."
What he will say about the group's production is that the band is "very exposed." It will feature special staging beyond "someone plopping a stadium stage at the end of a stadium."
"It's big and it's just fucking crazy and overwhelming and there are a few bells and whistles that are gonna make it unique," Ulrich says.
The band's "Memory Remains" memorabilia exhibit that debuted at the group's Orion festivals earlier this decade will also return. The drummer says it contains "lots of clothing, old instruments, lyric sheets, all kinds of memorabilia and knick-knacks" from throughout Metallica's nearly four-decade career. It's so monumental to him that when he visited the exhibit at the group's recent concert in Copenhagen, he beamed at how detailed and thorough it was. "Being the biggest Metallica fan in the world, [I] loved it, and I didn't even get a chance to penetrate it full-on," he says.
Asked what his favorite items are in the exhibit, he points to a white leather jacket he wore around the time the group made the Black Album and his spandex pants from the Eighties and Nineties. "I'm not sure they were ever actually washed," he says with a big laugh. "That's why they're behind extra thick glass. It's not because of a perceived higher value, but because we don't want any of our friends and guests in the exhibit to pass out from the fumes."
Metallica mapped out the North American dates of their 2017 WorldWired Tour, which will hit stadiums and festival stages this summer.