It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone if you’ve been doing the same thing for over 30 years. But for Metallica drummer and founding member Lars Ulrich, there’s always ways to keep things fresh.

“We try to play a different set list every night,” said Ulrich, 50, speaking to Popspoken at a press conference held at the Changi Exhibition Centre on Saturday. “We want to keep ourselves on our toes.”

Frontman James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo were also present. The nine-time Grammy award-winning metal band was in town as part of their Southeast Asia 2013 tour, organized by LAMC Productions and Universal Music in anticipation of Metallica Through The Never, a 3D feature film to be released next month.

All four band members looked relaxed and at ease at the press conference despite just arriving in Singapore half an hour before. Sporting shades, khakis, slippers, white tees and surfer tanks, the metal giants seemed more ready for an afternoon at Sentosa than a night of rocking the faces off 30, 000 fans who’ve waited 20 years for their return. Metallica last performed in Singapore at the Indoor Stadium in 1993, as part of their worldwide Nowhere Else to Roam tour.

This year’s Southeast Asia tour and upcoming feature film present further ways for the band to “reinvent the Metallica experience,” something Ulrich says the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been trying to do primarily for themselves. Past examples include making a record with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and releasing St Anger, the infamous 2003 album that split fans and critics down the middle. Oh, and crashing their own music festival this year too.

These days, Metallica’s songs are synonymous with introspection. Their lyrics are heavy, dealing with serious issues. Past subject matter includes thoughts on suicide (Fade to Black), political corruption (…And Justice For All), and the negative effects of drug abuse (Master of Puppets). And on Saturday, the band was quick to stress that relevance should never come at the expense of honesty.

“We try to stay as relevant as we can as long as it’s pure, honest and not contrived,” Ulrich said. “Or reinventing yourself just to reinvent yourself.”

Hetfield, 50, also admitted the band was “living the dream,” and it was a blessing to still be doing what he loved after 30 plus years.

“We never dreamed we’d make it pass 30,” he said with a wry smile. “But we’ll do this until we don’t want to do it anymore. It’s no use doing something your heart is not into.”

The Metallica frontman had some advice for up and coming bands as well:

“Be honest with yourself and be honest with your music,” Hetfield told Popspoken. “Write music you like. If you can show honesty to people it’s easier to be yourself.”

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And that raw honesty was on full display later in the evening, alongside trademark Metallica passion and aggression. By the end of the concert , the secret behind Metallica’s longevity was clear to us: the band’s love for their own music and respect for their history keeps them going strong. In Ulrich’s words, “we’re very proud of that history, and what that history means to our fans.”

Metallica kicked off their set at 9 p.m. with Hit the Lights from their 1983 debut Kill Em’ All, before storming through their discography for almost three hours straight. They performed classics like Master of Puppets, Fade To Black, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman. The band also played newer songs like Broken, Beat & Scarred from 2008’s Death Magnetic. In fact, the set list was so comprehensive that the glaring omission of fan favourite Fuel seemed almost criminal.

But to most of the capacity crowd at the Changi Exhibition Centre, the metal legends could do no wrong. Metallica showed a ferocious intensity and vigour that belied their years. Hetfield was a live wire, galvanizing the fans with his massive stage presence.

“You liked that song?” he asked, his black sleeveless shirt drenched in sweat. The cheers reverberated across the entire 30 hectares of the Changi Exhibition Centre as Hetfield stopped to take a breath. “Well…so did I!”

Ulrich was relentless on the drums. Trujillo’s extended bass solo  was a definite highlight of the set, and every lick from Hammett’s guitar sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“Do you feel it Singapore?” Hetfield asked the crowd in his trademark baritone. “I know you see it and hear it, but can you feel it?”

The audience was made up of fans from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand Brunei and beyond. But they roared their answer back as one. The Metallica frontman looked visibly impressed. He later requested for the house lights to be turned on, almost as if he couldn’t believe the 30, 000 strong crowd was actually that loud.

“Singapore really likes it heavy huh,” he remarked. “You guys kicked our asses tonight!”

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Full Setlist:

Hit The Lights
Master of Puppets
The Shortest Straw
Ride The Lightning
Fade To Black
The Memory Remains
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Sad But True
…And Justice For All
One
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Blackened
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Encore:

Creeping Death
Battery
Seek & Destroy

For more images, click here!

Popspoken would also like to thank LAMC Productions and Universal Music for making this possible.