Friday night's inaugural concert at the shiny new Chase Center proved that you can stick an 18,000-seat arena in the middle of a busy city without any parking to speak of and people will figure it out.
Metallica's first show with the San Francisco Symphony in 20 years was, not surprisingly, a major draw for fans from around the world. The legend of the first S&M concerts in 1999, immortalized in an album of the same name, has only grown over time. And if the importance of the occasion of this 20th anniversary reunion show were ever in doubt, all one needed to do was look to the lines at the merch booths Friday night, which snaked in all directions on the upper and main concourses of the new arena.
The band opened with the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu," putting their elaborate collaboration with the 75-person orchestra on full display. The acoustics in the Chase Center proved stellar, and in place of that huge LED game display that will hover over the court during Warriors games was a grand set of multi-sized, circular video displays and speakers, offset from each other like a giant Calder mobile. This collection of objects hung over a turntable stage — a large Lazy Susan that spun at an imperceptible speed so that everyone in the arena had a chance to see Lars Ulrich's drum kit head-on.
View this post on Instagram
Moth Into The Flame... 🦋⤵️🔥 #metallica #metalmusic #livemusic #metal #tour #metontour #instapic #huaweip20pro #specialperson #youarethebest #instaconcert #instamoments #hardwiredtoselfdestruct #metallicarules #orchestra #sandm2 #sanfrancisco #chasecenter #goldenstatewarriors #nba
The masters of thrash metal went on to play eight more songs in their first set, with a 20 minute break that was followed by SF Symphony musical director Michael Tilson Thomas taking the stage and leading the orchestra in Prokoviev's Scythian Suite. Metallica lead singer James Hatfield then took the stage to perform "The Unforgiven III" alone with the Symphony. There were then seven more barn-burning numbers that included the band's classics "One," "Master of Puppets," and "Enter Sandman" as a closer. Mercury News reviewer Jim Harrington called it "unbelievably rich and powerful," and "a concert that fans will be talking about for decades to come."
Or, as Ulrich said from the stage, "How fucking cool is this?"
The Chase Center itself is a grand, and inspiring new piece of architecture, with a set of plazas wrapping around two thirds of it that are flanked by equally handsome structures. The plaza facing the box office sits on the west side of the circular main building, separated partly from Third Street by a building and a striking semi-spiral amphitheater of sorts under a pedestaled white shade canopy, while a second entry plaza faces the waterfront on the eastern side.
Speaking of mobiles, the main lobbies have been decorated with some suspended art as well. In the west lobby hangs a simple, Calder-esque mobile — it may actually be Calder. In the east lobby is a striking, twinkling light sculpture in the Warriors blue and gold that hangs a full four stories.
The big headline of Saturday morning is, of course, about the traffic. I observed a long line of Ubers and Lyfts trying to exit the Mission Bay area via Terry Francois Boulevard about an hour before the show, which repeated itself when the event let out. (There were legions of Metallica fans who traveled from far and wide, as KPIX reports, and they couldn't all be expected to figure out Muni from their hotels. That is a situation we will likely see play out at just about every show, though not all shows will have the special-occasion aura to draw people from across the world.)
"Traffic was a piece of cake," said one Sonora resident speaking to KPIX, after he took an Uber to the show.
I rode a 22 bus to the neighborhood, and I was by myself on the bus by the time it made it to Third Street — not many people seem to have gotten the memo about the two new event shuttle bus lines from Van Ness and 16th and Mission either, but those are going to be way faster options for getting to and from the Chase Center than the painfully slow T line, which has to wend its way through SoMa and mind a bunch of traffic lights.
Everyone should be thankful, then, that the worst-nightmare predictions of UCSF and everyone else haven't come to pass — yet. And today will be a second test as the Chase Center is holding an outdoor block party for anyone who wants to show up. On Sunday, Metallica and the Symphony return for a by-popular-demand repeat of Friday's show.
Maybe we can have nice things after all, you guys! Don't mess this up.