By the time 2018 comes to an end, Metallica will have played an estimated 2,036 shows since they first set foot on a stage March 14, 1982. In that time, they’ve had five men play bass for them. Here’s a look at how many dates each has played.
Ron McGovney was the group’s original bassist, but he left at the end of 1982 after just 28 shows, due to conflicts with the other members. He was replaced by Cliff Burton, who held down the bottom end for 261 gigs until his tragic 1986 death in a bus accident. The grieving band then hired Jason Newsted, who helped them reach superstardom before his departure in 2001.
A year later, producer Bob Rock played bass at a pair of informal gigs. One was a surprise show at Kimo’s in San Francisco where they were billed as Spun, and a month later they played a party at the band’s headquarters in San Rafael, Calif. A year later Robert Trujillo, formerly of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, joined after the extensive audition process chronicled in the documentary Some Kind of Monster.
While, as of the end of 2018, Trujillo has been with the group for slightly longer than Newsted, Metallica’s schedule has slowed down with Trujillo. So Newsted, with 1,032 shows to his name during his tenure, has so far played considerably more dates than Trujillo (714).
Metallica’s lead guitar breakdown is much simpler. Kirk Hammett replaced future Megadeth star Dave Mustaine (who played just 32 shows with the group) in 1983 as they were about to begin sessions for their debut, Kill ‘Em All, and has remained their lead guitarist ever since. And as of this writing, he has reportedly never missed a show.
As for the two remaining founders, Lars Ulrich has held down the drum stool for all of Metallica’s 2,036 concerts with one exception. Prior to their June 6, 2004 headlining slot at the Download Festival in Donington, England, he became sick en route to the venue and couldn’t make the gig. His spot was taken by two other drummers on the bill that day, Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Joey Jordison of Slipknot, and Ulrich’s longtime drum tech Flemming Larsen.
James Hetfield, on the other hand, has a more complex story. He was originally slated to be the band’s singer, but after four nights, including one where they played as a five-piece with Brad Parker on rhythm guitar, Hetfield picked up his instrument. And he’s also had to put it down for a few shows over the years. His guitar tech John Marshall played rhythm guitar at 36 shows – split evenly between 1986 and 1992, when injuries sustained in, respectively, a skateboarding accident and the infamous Montreal onstage pyro accident prevented Hetfield from playing, although he was still able to sing.
(In a sad coincidence, Hetfield’s first night back on guitar from his 1986 skateboarding injury was the Sept. 27 show in Stockholm which turned out to be Burton’s last show.)
He also missed three dates entirely in 2000 when a jet-skiing accident injured his back. For those nights, his chores were handled by members of the opening acts Korn, System of a Down and Kid Rock’s band, and Newsted also sang lead on some songs. So while Hetfield has been the singer for 2,033 of Metallica’s gigs, he’s “only” played guitar for 1,996.
We’ve taken the numbers from the band’s official live history page on their website, and added the shows left on their touring calendar for 2018. We also included the dates in December 2011 where they invited friends and former members to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Newsted sat in on all four nights, while Marshall only played the first. Mustaine, Rock and McGovney rejoined for the final show, as did Lloyd Grant, who played lead on the original recording of “Hit the Lights” but had never performed with them.