Why James Hetfield blamed Axl Rose for the worst Metallica show ever

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Entering a Metallica show has always been a journey into a wild and unbridled experience. While the band has ventured into tamer territories in recent years, the thrash metal era brought forth colossal shows not for the faint of heart, with mosh pits sprawling around the stadium, and thousands of metalheads going berserk on every track. Despite James Hetfield’s commitment to promoting a healthy onstage environment, there was one show that proved too detrimental to endure.

As Metallica transitioned into the 1990s, their desire to push beyond the confines of traditional thrash metal led them to collaborate with Bob Rock. The result was The Black Album, a celebrated rock record of the modern age featuring concert staples like ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Enter Sandman.’

Capitalizing on their momentum, drummer Lars Ulrich proposed an ambitious idea: to have two of the biggest bands in the world share the same bill. Impressed by the sound of Guns N’ Roses, Ulrich played a role in arranging the tour, envisioning both bands delivering mammoth two-hour sets at each stop. However, what seemed perfect on paper encountered problems right from the start.

Axl Rose’s inconsistent schedule disappointed fans at many shows, with the LA rockers either playing for a few minutes or not showing up at all. The tour took a deadly turn when they arrived in Toronto. Incorporating massive fireballs into their stage act, Hetfield accidentally moved the wrong way, finding himself beneath a canister meant to shoot up a chemical flame. Severely injured mid-set, Hetfield required urgent medical attention, leading to months of battling back to playing the guitar.

While this could have been an opportunity for Guns N’ Roses to step up, Rose was not up to the task that night, leaving the stage after only three songs, citing voice and monitor problems. Unsatisfied with the lack of performance, the audience turned violent, causing a massive riot in the middle of the stadium that spilled outside.

Despite Hetfield understanding Rose’s challenges, he believed that Rose’s decision to leave the stage exacerbated the situation. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Hetfield expressed disappointment, stating, “He threw a fit, and that was that. I was so disappointed in him. Because he could have won so many people over by continuing the show. And he went the exact opposite way and made things ten times worse and jeopardised people’s lives. There was a lot of unnecessary violence because of his attitude.”

Although Metallica carried on with the rest of the tour, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash later admitted to feeling ashamed of the band’s behavior during the tour. He confessed that he could barely look any members of Metallica in the eye throughout the remaining dates. Despite the violence on that fateful day, Hetfield honored his fans later by returning to play the show, covered in bandages, while a guitar tech filled in his rhythm parts.

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