The United States Of Metallica: The story of metal’s biggest band, one state at a time
We asked Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood – Kerrang! writers and co-authors of two books about the band – to outline an exhaustive rundown of Metallica’s most important connections to every U.S. state. Fifty momentous affiliations may seem like a lot for any one band to claim – but for an act as legendary act as Metallica, 50 stops along the way are but a blip on the radar.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
While none of the three writers of Sweet Home Alabama actually hailed from the state, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 hit remains the definitive Southern Rock anthem. In Metallica history, the song is significant for providing Dave Mustaine’s inspiration for The Four Horsemen: the band’s former guitarist has freely admitted that the song’s slowest section is a direct rip-off of Gary Rossington and Ed King’s riff.
The most sparsely populated U.S. state didn’t receive a visit from the world’s biggest metal band until April 1989, when The Four Horsemen played Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena. The trip was also noticeable for a famous Metallica photo shoot on a glacier, with Lars Ulrich hiring a helicopter so that the band and Kerrang! photographer Ross Halfin could reach the ice. “It was very, very dangerous,” Ross recalled, adding, “it typified the spirit of the time.”
In one of the more bizarre moments in Metallica history, Arizona might be the only U.S. state where a Metallica fan has been arrested for peeing on a family at a gig. Daniel Francis Daddio was charged with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct after a fellow gig-goer alleged that the former Army vet urinated on him, his wife and his 10-year-old daughter at the band’s August 4, 2017 show at the University of Phoenix. “In the 15 years I’ve been on the bench, this is one of the most disgusting scenarios I’ve ever read,” commented the trial judge. “Really inappropriate.”
Arkansas has the distinction of having hosted Metallica’s very first arena show, at Bald Knob Amphitheater on August 16, 1983. Given that every other date on the quartet’s Kill ’Em All For One co-headline tour with Raven took place in clubs, however, the local promoter had clearly grossly over-estimated the band’s popularity. “It was about 140 degrees and 95 per cent humidity, and I think we played to about 12 people,” Lars Ulrich recalled in 2008.
Had Lars Ulrich’s parents not decided to set up a home in Newport Beach, California, in the summer of 1980, the course of heavy metal history might have been entirely different. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco can lay claim to being Metallica’s ‘home’: frustration at the moribund rock scene in LA fuelled the band’s formation, while the Bay Area’s ’bangers clutched James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Dave Mustaine to their collective bosom when they relocated to El Cerrito in February 1983. Though James and Kirk Hammett now live elsewhere, Frisco is still the band’s spiritual HQ.
Colorado occupies a unique place in Metallica history, as it can claim to have hosted the only Metallica gig stopped by lighting. Five songs into the band’s June 7, 2017 show at Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the band were forced to quit the stage for an hour for their own safety. Naturally, when they returned, they simply had to play a snippet of Ride The Lightning. “We have no control over Mother Nature,” shrugged James Hetfield, now a resident of Vail, Colorado, and clearly a man who knows how to pick his battles.
Unlikely as it may seem, in 1985, Connecticut briefly emerged as the frontline of the battle between LA “hair metal” and “street metal”. On January 11 of that year, a tour featuring WASP, Metallica, and Armored Saint visited Hartford, Connecticut’s Agora Ballroom, where WASP frontman Blackie Lawless was met with a homemade sign reading “Blackie Ball-less Sucks!” Enraged, Blackie spat at his nemesis, only to receive a spitball in his face by return. When he spotted the members of Metallica and Armored Saint creased up with laughter side-stage, he never spoke to his tourmates again.
As part of their “50 Shows, 50 States” pledge on the Damaged Justice Tour in 1989, Metallica played the tiny Stone Balloon club in Newark on August 7. Speaking to MugNight.com, owner Elvin Steinberg estimated that there were more people outside the club than inside, and the city elders were so concerned about public safety that they stationed their entire police force outside the club. In the end, Metallica charmed everyone by sticking around to sign autographs in the car park until 2am. The show also featured a rare cover of Diamond Head’s Am I Evil?, with Lars on vocals and James on drums.
Metallica fans attending the final date of the band’s 1994 Summer Shit Tour at Bicentennial Park in Miami, Florida on August 21 were treated to the unexpected sight of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford fronting the band for the first time – albeit for just one song: a cover of Priest’s Rapid Fire. The Metal God and Metallica reprised their performance in 2011 at one of Metallica’s special 30th anniversary shows – and again in 2013, at Revolver magazine’s Golden Gods awards ceremony. The Priest singer later listed Kill ’Em All among his top 10 favourite metal albums ever.
On July 7, 2000, Metallica fans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta were granted a very unique performance from the band. With James Hetfield laying low with a back injury following a jet-ski accident, Jason Newsted fronted the group for the first time, with assistance from Summer Sanitarium tourmates Kid Rock and Jonathan Davis from Korn. For those who’d always wondered what Metallica would sound like playing CCR’s Fortunate Son with Kid Rock on vocals, this was the moment. Further Metalli-oke followed at shows in Kentucky and Texas before James’ return to the fray.
In Metallica lore, Hawaii is most significant for being the home of Kirk Hammett. The easy-going guitarist married his second wife Lani in Kailua on January 31, 1998. “We were both barefoot… and married Hawaiian style with a Kahu [Reverend] overlooking the ceremonies,” he told fans – and purchased an ocean-front estate on the islands soon afterwards. Civic-minded chap that he is, Kirk has even volunteered at his local food bank. Respect.
In early 2018, a radio DJ from Boise, Idaho, named Jeremi Schlader (“Big J” to his fans) pledged to lose 100 pounds if Metallica would grant him the rights to an interview when the band played his city for the first time in nearly a decade, on November 28 of that year. Via a video released on Facebook and Twitter, the band accepted his challenge, and promised they would meet in person if Big J achieves his goal. And sure enough, after months of dieting, he met the Four Horsemen for a chat at the show.
The very best early footage of Metallica playing live circa Kill ’Em All is a recording of the band’s first performance in Chicago, on August 12, 1983. Two songs from the quartet’s Windy City set – No Remorse and Metal Militia – surfaced first on the Cliff ’Em All video released in 1987 as a tribute to the late, great Cliff Burton, and the whole show was made available in 2016 as part of the Kill ’Em All deluxe box-set. Watch it, and then weep at the fact that no-one in this feral, ferocious band was older than 21 at the time.
When Metallica landed a slot on Ozzy Osbourne’s Ultimate Sin Tour in America in 1986, they were thrilled at the prospect of showcasing their new Master Of Puppets album to arena crowds for the first time. Their frontman breaking his wrist, ensuring that he couldn’t play guitar, was most definitely not part of the plan. James Hetfield took his tumble ahead of the band’s July 26 show in Evansville, Indiana, leading to the cancellation of their slot. Nine months later, he’d break his wrist again while skateboarding, costing the band an opportunity to play on TV’s Saturday Night Live. Oops.
“Tonight we are all Iowans,” declared James Hetfield on June 9, 2017, as his band performed a special benefit concert at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The fundraising gig came about due to Lars Ulrich’s friendship with actor (and Iowa native) Ashton Kutcher, who is the co-founder of the Native Fund, a non-profit initiative set up to help Iowans in time of crisis. The state also has a part to play in older Metallica history: according to drummer Lars Ulrich, it was “somewhere between Iowa and Chicago” on Metallica’s road trip to the east coast to make Kill ’Em All that he and James Hetfield decided to kick Dave Mustaine out of their band.
The state of Kansas can boast of hosting the very first show on Metallica’s Damage, Inc. Tour, in support of the band’s third album, Master Of Puppets. The foursome played the Kansas Coliseum in Valley Center, Kansas on March 27, 1986, performing Battery, Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and Damage, Inc. live for the very first time.
In one of the more intriguing brand extensions floated for Metallica, in March 2018, the band revealed that they would be developing their own whiskey in Louisville, Kentucky (the birthplace of bourbon). Three years later, we know it as Blackened, with various batches being produced to different Metallica playlists.
When Green Day pulled out of their headlining slot at the New Orleans Voodoo Music Experience festival in 2012 so that Billie Joe Armstrong could enter rehab, Metallica stepped into the breach for their fellow Californians. Metallica’s encore on the night of October 27, 2012 featured a unique tribute to the Berkeley band, with the quartet playing the first verse of American Idiot, encouraging the audience to sing the words. Referring to Billie Joe’s issues, James Hetfield stated: “Hopefully they get it fixed, because the world needs them.”
Given that Metallica didn’t play a headline show in Maine until the Damaged Justice Tour in 1989, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the state doesn’t loom too heavily in their history. Except, that is, for being the location for one post-show backstage sequence in A Year And A Half In The Life Of Metallica, where millionaire bassist Jason Newsted is filmed diligently making sandwiches to take back to his hotel room. Called out as a cheapskate, the bassist calmly replies, “I got plans for those millions and it ain’t for fucking sandwiches!” Who could argue with that?
On May 9, 2017, Metallica took a step into unchartered territory by streaming their final rehearsal for their North American tour on Facebook Live. The show, at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, was billed as Now That We‘re Live, and 300 fans who donated to the band’s All Within My Hands charity were granted admission. It featured just four full songs – Atlas, Rise!, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Now That We’re Dead, and Battery – but those in attendance also got to see the band jam on Eye Of The Beholder, Lords Of Summer, Iron Maiden’s Invaders and more.
On January 24, 1984 Metallica were due to perform at The Channel in Boston… until some light-fingered locals broke into their tour van and stole Lars Ulrich’s drums, and Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield’s Marshall amps. Bummed out by the robbery, James channeled his sorrow into a dark, melancholy melody and some of his darkest lyrics ever: ‘I have lost the will to live / Simply nothing more to give’ ran one memorable lyric in what became the stark suicide meditation Fade To Black. “I’m sure I wasn’t really thinking of killing myself,” Papa Het later noted. “But it was my favourite Marshall amp, man!”
Michigan’s place in Metallica history is assured, for the state is the birthplace of Jason Newsted, the band’s bassist from October 1986 through to January 2001. Jason was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, and grew up on a farm in nearby Niles. The state can also boast the one and only performance by Dehaan, the pseudonym adopted by Metallica to play a ‘secret’ show – performing Kill ’Em All in full for the very first time – at the second staging of the band’s ill-fated Orion festival in Belle Isle, Detroit.
Metallica fans who attended the band’s August 20, 2016 show at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, can lay claim to having been present for the worldwide premiere of Hardwired, the nominal title-track of the quartet’s 10th studio album, then still three months away from release. Showing Minnesota some love, Rob Trujillo wore a Vikings jersey for a section of the show, and also incorporated a section of Prince’s Erotic City into his bass solo.
While Metallica’s Kirk Hammett is a vocal advocate for Mississippi Delta blues, metal fans in the state may well have their own Metallica blues. The band haven’t played a show there since April 1997, when they stopped off in Biloxi on their Poor Touring Me trek. Maybe someone should get down to Robert Johnson’s crossroads and offer their soul to Satan in exchange for luring The Four Horsemen back to the state…
In 2016, a video of brothers Henry, Eli, and Abe Ismert – a.k.a. Kansas City, Missouri, thrash band Hammerhedd – went viral after Metallica reposted a clip of the baby-faced trio playing flawless versions of Eye Of The Beholder, Blackened, For Whom The Bell Tolls and …And Justice For All outside a local shopping centre with the encouraging words, “Nice work, boys!!!” The band subsequently received – and declined – an invitation to appear on America’s Got Talent, preferring to shun the hype. They released their debut album, Grand Currents, last year.
In joining Metallica in 1986, Jason Newsted went from “Newkid” to “Richkid” in short order. After leaving the band in some acrimony in 2001, the bassist eventually placed his home in Montana up for sale at a price of $4.95 million in 2017. For this, the buyer secured a ranch that offered panoramic rural views set on 545 acres of land.
When Metallica’s equipment trucks pulled up at the loading bays of the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 6, 2018, it was only the sixth time that the band have performed in the 37th state. What’s more was a full decade since their last visit.
Despite having been born in Michigan, it was in Nevada that Jason Newsted made his bones as a professional musician. And despite Flotsam & Jetsam forming in Arizona (and taking the crown for best AZ metal band, at that), it was in Nevada that Jason joined, and led, the promising thrash metal band, from whose ranks Metallica plucked the successor to the late Cliff Burton.
By the time Metallica first headlined New Hampshire with an appearance at the Riverfront Park on July 15, 1989, they were already both an arena band and the new kings of metal. At this time, they would also perform anywhere. “If your city has an arena, we’ll play there,” said Lars Ulrich at the time.
After hearing the band’s demo tape, No Life ’Til Leather, from a customer at his flea-market record stall in Hoboken, Johnny Zazula invited Metallica to come to New Jersey to play shows and record Kill ’Em All, the album that would introduce the band to the world. Initially billeted at Johnny’s home, the group’s bad behaviour meant that soon enough they were kicked out and dispatched to Jamaica, Queens.
Metallica’s first tour worthy of the name, 1983’s Kill ’Em All For One caravan saw the Californians sharing one van with Geordie rockers Raven during the height of the American summer. “It was basically a brothel on wheels,” Kirk Hammett would later say. For this reason alone, the band’s introduction to New Mexico – a Portales show in the dog days of August – surely ranks as one of their least hygienic.
On August 3, 1991, Metallica didn’t play Madison Square Garden. Instead, their then-unreleased full-length – The Black Album – was pumped through the venue’s PA system at an exclusive listening party for an audience of 10,000 people (three of whom made up the group Nirvana). “I was pissed off that our album played the Garden before we did,” Lars Ulrich would later joke.
When Ron McGovney was the bassist in Metallica, his bandmates treated him with scorn and contempt. But onstage at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the World Magnetic Tour of 2009, James Hetfield dedicated early-day track Phantom Lord (from Kill ’Em All) to their first proper four-stringer, who was in attendance that night. Hats off to Metallica’s Pete Best!
It’s fair to say that Metallica are not frequent visitors to North Dakota. The band’s 2018 appearance in the rural state was their first in 14 years. Back then, they were a weakened quartet plying a disastrous album, St Anger, on the Madly In Anger With The World Tour. As if to prove this, they played only one song from their misfiring new record onstage that night.
In October of 2009, Metallica were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The establishment resides in the “Mistake on the Lake” (a.k.a. Cleveland) because this was the place at which DJ Alan Freed first introduced the phrase “rock’n’roll” to the world. To mark their induction, Metallica paid for 150 guests to be flown to and accommodated in the Midwestern City.
When Metallica embarked on the Shit Hits The Sheds Tour of 1994, one of the bands booked to open for them were Alice In Chains. However, due to singer Layne Staley’s burgeoning drug addiction, the dates were not honoured. However, this didn’t stop guitarist Jerry Cantrell from joining the headliners onstage in Oklahoma City for a run-through of For Whom The Bell Tolls. This wouldn’t be the last time the band and Jerry would perform the song, either: they reunited onstage to play it again in San Francisco in 2011.
1983 was the year that Metallica broke out of the confines of California and onto America’s vast canvas. In the intervening years, the band have visited Oregon on no fewer than 10 occasions, but their first was a date at the Starry Night Club in Portland on November 17, 1983. Sadly, no audio or visual proof of this show exists on the internet – but we can listen to their triumphant return to the venue two years later in 1985, as the final gig of the Ride The Lightning Tour.
While on tour in 1998 in support of the Garage Inc. covers album (only playing songs that the band had not written), Metallica came up with the unbeatable idea of inviting a Metallica tribute band to open the show. Following an appearance in Philadelphia, the headliners even invited their guests, Damage Inc, to an aftershow autograph signing session at a Philly gas station.
Metallica’s six-month tour in 1986 supporting Ozzy Osbourne was both their breakout experience and the caravan that took them to states they’d never before visited. Without its extensive itinerary, God alone knows how long it would have taken The Four Horsemen to reach America’s smallest state. Metallica first christened the Ocean State on April 23, 1986, leaning heavily on their Master Of Puppets material in a nine-song set that opened for Ozzy and tourmates Queensrÿche at the Providence Civic Center.
If Metallica are infrequent visitors to the quiet states near the northern, Canadian border, it’s nothing when compared to their visits to South Carolina. But while it may have been over a full quarter of a century since the group last performed in the Palmetto State, fans were at least treated to a three-hour set that featured Creeping Death, Enter Sandman, Whiplash and Battery. And most fortunately, the February 6, 1993, performance has been immortalised on YouTube for all to see.
When Metallica played the Sioux Falls Arena in South Dakota on the Wherever We May Roam Tour of 1992, tickets cost less than $30. 26 years later, deep-pocketed fans who saw the same band in the same city were able to treat themselves to a premium “Hardwired” package and receive one-dollar change from two-and-a-half thousand bucks. (Despite the inflation, the show – and its premium experiences – sold out entirely.)
A show for the ages, Metallica’s performance at the Sommet Center in Nashville is notable for an appearance onstage by none other than Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. The Motörhead mainstay joined the group for a run-through the ’Head classic, Damage Case, in a performance that can be seen in the biographical documentary, Lemmy. In many ways, this moment was more meaningful to the Motörhead-worshipping band than fans could ever know.
James Hetfield celebrated his 40th birthday with a show at the Texas Stadium in Dallas on August 3, 2003. During the final number, Enter Sandman, the frontman was covered in cake as the audience serenaded him with a chorus of Happy Birthday. After the concert, the band flew back to the Bay Area for an all-night go-karting session. Check out a scrapbook of photos from that night at Metallica.com.
Metallica have long been known for their pop-up appearances in tiny venues. And so, it was in the thick of winter on January 31, 2006, that the group appeared at Harry O’s in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival. The occasion served to promote the adventure comedy film The Darwin Awards, in which they appear.
Asked to nominate his worst onstage experience, Jason Newsted picked a night in Vermont on the Damaged Justice Tour when his entire bass rig gave up the ghost as he attempted to play Fade To Black. His attempts to find a sound – any sound – were not helped by the fact that he recalled the temperature inside the converted gymnasium to be something like “110 degrees”.
On another birthday for James Hetfield – August 3, 1986 – Metallica played their final date as support to Ozzy Osbourne on the Englishman’s Ultimate Sin Tour. With Master Of Puppets well on its way to attaining gold status in the United States, the band were taken aside by their manager, Peter Mensch, and told that they could all now afford to buy houses. (As legend has it, they went ahead and did just that.)
In 1989, Metallica played their first professionally filmed concert performance, at the Seattle Coliseum (now known as KeyArena). Fans, however, would have to wait four years to see and hear the blistering set, which was released as part of the 1993’s mindblowingly expensive Live Shit: Binge & Purge box set. (These days, thanks to digital media and Amazon.com, it can be bought for significantly less.)
Occupying the second-from-bottom slot on Van Halen’s 1988 Monsters Of Rock stadium tour meant that Metallica were able to spend their summer, as Lars Ulrich put it, “drinking for eight or nine hours” every day. The debauchery began in East Troy, Wisconsin, less than a week after the completion of the recording sessions for …And Justice For All. (It is, surely, a youthful summer in stark contrast to those of the band – now over a decade-and-a-half sober – today.)
Metallica’s appearance at the Charles Town Raceway in West Virginia on July 16, 1996, was as part of a bill as varied as any on which they have performed. Sharing a stage with Wu-Tang Clan, Shaolin Monks, and Rancid, that year’s Lollapalooza caravan was met with controversy because – shock horror! – its headliner was a metal band. Today, of course – with festivals like Roskilde featuring the likes of Taylor Swift, Deftones, Faith No More and Kendrick Lamar – the bill seems refreshingly forward-thinking.
While travelling cross-country en route to meet Jonny Zazula in New Jersey, the young Metallica almost died in Wyoming. After jack-knifing off a snow-covered road, the touring party was then almost mown down by a passing 18-wheel truck. “We could all have got killed,” James Hetfield later noted. Let’s just be thankful that they did not.
We love you, boys.
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