Metallica to play historic concert in Saudi Arabia

The US band will headline the opening night of the Soundstorm festival in Riyadh

Metallica will bring their powerful live show to Riyadh next month. EPA
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Metallica will perform in Saudi Arabia for the first time in December.

The metal behemoths will headline the opening night of the three-day Soundstorm festival in Riyadh on December 14.

The group join a growing list of eclectic artists making their way to the kingdom, ranging from RnB stars Pharrell Williams, Chris Brown and Her, as well as DJs Tiesto and David Guetta to pop acts Black Eyed Peas, J Balvin and Anne-Marie.

Regarded as Saudi Arabia's answer to the UK's Glastonbury festival, more than 600,000 people reportedly attended last year’s event, making Soundstorm one of the largest music festivals in the Mena region.

News of Metallica’s arrival was preceded by a cryptic video on the festival’s Instagram account that shared a photo of a black guitar against the yellow and black backdrop used in the cover art of the group's new album 72 Seasons.

The Saudi show is part of the band's big selling M72 World Tour, which has taken them to stadiums across Europe and North America.

According to the setlists, fans can expect to hear favourites such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Unforgiven, One and Enter Sandman, in addition to cuts from 72 Seasons, including the title track and If Darkness Had a Son.

Metallica’s historic gig marks the latest evolution in the Saudi concert scene – in that it will be the first major heavy metal concert staged in the country.

Popular guitar-driven artists performing in the past are a small bunch, including Imagine Dragons and OneRepublic.

While the tunes will be louder and visceral, anticipation for Metallica's concert will be high due to the group’s fervent regional fan base happy to travel to see their heroes.

This was displayed when more than 20,000 people attended the band’s debut Middle East performance in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Park in 2011.

Such was the reception the band returned to the same venue two years later for another successful concert.

Speaking to The National ahead of the 2013 show, drummer Lars Ulrich described performing in the Gulf was an eye opener for the band.

"When we were here a year and a half ago, it was really magical. Now, I don't say that everywhere… there were so many different nationalities – a great energy and shared experience,” he said.

"When we started playing, there were so many parts of the world where the type of music that we were doing was not really accepted. There were a lot of places where people didn't know what we were doing or didn't have enough infrastructure to support a band like us.

“But it's opening up. It's changing and the world is shrinking. It's great to be in the front lines.”

Soundstorm festival runs from December 14 to 16 in Riyadh. Tickets, starting at 169 Saudi riyals ($45), are available at

Updated: November 27, 2023, 3:11 PM