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August 22, 2000

Metallica: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -Truth

Metallica is one of the most popular rock bands of our time. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Metallica has sold an estimated 48 million records in the United States alone. From heavy to soft, metal to alternative, their music has reached millions of fans across the globe. With their recent stance against Napster and the free digital music revolution, they have shown their faces in various locales, including the U.S. Senate. Napster, a college-based company whose sole purpose is to give fans the ability to obtain free music by downloading it from their internet server, was recently sued by Metallica and various other bands and companies for continuing copyright infringements, unlawful use of digital audio interface devices, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). "We feel that as musicians, all of our hard work is being given away for free. No one else works for free. Why should musicians?" asked drummer Lars Ulrich, at the United States Senate on July 11, 2000.

Metallicaís popularity among their fans wasnít always based on their record sales and their political stances, but on their live performances. The Summer Sanitarium 2000 tour was no exception. According to MTV.com, the Summer Sanitarium tour was the most anticipated tour of the year, featuring five of the most established bands in the world: Korn, System of a Down, Powerman 5000, Kid Rock, and of course, the headliners, Metallica. One of the dates was in Atlanta.

The concert itself was like a madhouse. The sold-out crowd packed the stands and the floor of the Georgia Dome. System of a Down played three songs, but got such little response from the crowd that they left the stage. Powerman 5000 got the crowd fired up during their hour-long session. Kid Rock toned it down a bit with his eighties' flair, dancing women, and singing midget. Korn came out and played a grueling two-hour set. Korn left the stage, and the usual intermission between bands ensued.

Carlos Vrocher, who had driven from Saraland, Alabama, said, "It took about 40 minutes to set up for each band, so we weren't really worried when it took an hour. But when we saw Lars, we knew something was up."

Lars Ulrich, Metallica's drummer, walked on the stage and said, "As you can see, we aren't dressed to play. Our lead singer, James Hetfield, has been in the hospital since 4:00 this afternoon. He is not going to be able to make it to the show this evening. But I guarantee this: tonight is going to be a night of rock history. We've been collaborating in the back with the other bands, and we have put together a jam session for everyone here." Ulrich went on to say that there would be a free "All Metallica" show on August 4th, to keep the ticket stubs, and that they'd be out in about 5 minutes.

Vrocher remarked, "They didn't tell us that when they said 5 minutes, they really meant 2 hours!" during the "five minute" (hour and forty-five minute) wait. The band finally re-appeared to play a few songs, but given the very limited amount of practice, all did not go well. Kid Rock, who sampled guitar riffs from the song "Sad But True," did not know the lyrics to the original song. The band even pulled a member of the audience to sing, but he only made it half-way through the chorus before he was carried offstage by the bandís bodyguard. As a finale, the members of every band participating in the tour came out to sing/play "Enter Sandman," which was, Vrocher declared, the "only redeeming moment."

After the concert, Hetfield missed the next two dates, July 8 in Kentucky, and July 9 in Dallas. Metallica scheduled free concerts for each of the dates in their original location, but changed them because some fans were unable to make the new dates. As a result, Metallica decided to play two dates for each of the three no-shows.

The Atlanta concerts were set at the Lakewood Amphitheater, since the Georgia Dome was already booked on August 5th and 6th. Corrosion of Conformity, authors of songs such as "Vote With a Bullet" and "Clean My Wounds," were pulled from the studio, where they were recording their new album, America's Volume Dealer, and were asked to open for Metallica for the Atlanta and Dallas make-up shows.

Once again Vrocher of Saraland gave his running commentary. He noted that the attitude at the Lakewood Amphitheater was much more relaxed, compared to the volatility of the crowd at the previous show. "The people acted like they didn't care whether either of the bands showed, they were just there to party." Barbecue and grilling was a frequent sight across the parking lot, which kept the security busy keeping the fire ordinances intact.

Corrosion of Conformity arrived on stage as scheduled, playing a few songs from their new album, accompanied by some of their old hits. As the sun closed in on the horizon, they left the stage, and the chaos began. A group of people tried to set the lawn on fire, but after some hostility and force they were escorted from the concert. Then, the imposing figure of Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly appeared on the monitors. One of Metallica's trademarks is "The Ecstasy of Gold," a song from the movie. After the video, the amplifiers blazed with three hours of the best Metallica concert so far, according to all who attended. Metallica spared no expense with their top-of-the-line pyrotechnics and fireworks, and the heavy guitar riffs were enough to keep the crowd and the energy going for the entire three-hour show. "It was the greatest experience of my life," said Vrocher.

-- Jeff McManus


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