Metallica returned to Chicago for a massive show.
Date: Thursday, July 28, 2022
Place: Grant Park (downtown Chicago, Illinois)
Ticket Price: $125 ( after fees)
This was only my second time seeing Metallica. I saw them for the first time in June 2017 at Soldier Field in Chicago. That was way late in my life but better late than never. That was an awesome show. They were on tour supporting the album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, which had released in November 2016. They actually played five songs from the album that night. At that show I managed to get pretty good seats by the side of the stage. The weather was beautiful. The crowd was massive, on the field and all the way up to the nosebleed seats in the stadium where the people looked like ants. It’s one of the best shows I’ve been to and still remember a lot from. Like a lot of people, Metallica was one of the first bands I discovered when getting into music. I still remember that I borrowed a Ride the Lightning CD from one of my classmates in 8th grade and never gave it back to them after listening to it. I was familiar with Metallica because of what I had heard on the radio or whatever but that album blew my mind. It was a whole new experience for me. The intro song “Fight Fire With Fire” was on heavy, heavy repeat back then. At the time I had the idea of playing drums because of that song and Lars Ulrich playing so fast on it (what my 13-year-old self thought in those moments). Then I went with guitar instead, never really learned how to play and still have one collecting dust that never gets used.
At this year’s Lollapalooza, Metallica headlined the T-Mobile stage on Thursday night. They had played the festival in 1996 (when it was a touring act) and in 2015 at Grant Park in Chicago. They played a random, unannounced show at the Metro in Chicago last year in September that sold out instantly. Besides that though they hadn’t been back to the city since that 2017 event at Soldier Field.
The “Master of Puppets” song is somehow even bigger now than it was before. Stranger Things on Netflix exposed the band to a huge new audience 36 years after that song first came out in 1986. Season four of the series debuted on May 27th. One of the episodes has the character Eddie Munson (played by Joseph Quinn) playing the song on guitar during some action scene. I didn’t think the could get any bigger but it has. I’ve never seen the show so I’m clueless about it but the song and that Eddie Munson character are like pop culture phenomenons now. The timing of this Lollapalooza show lined up just right with the new Stranger Things season.
I had been to Lolla before when I went for the first time at last year’s event. The general Lollapalooza crowd really isn’t my type of people. It’s a lot of young people in their teens to early 20s. There’s no age limit for the event so anyone can go. A majority of them are the type of white kids who sing out the n-word along with a hip-hop artist at this festival and then post it on their social media with no self-awareness. The other group are adults that are a lot of yuppie and suburban types. This isn’t the alternative Lollapalooza and crowd of the ’90s like how it was at its inception in 1991. I don’t know when the last time they actually were focusing on that musical style. Now it’s just a lot of weird performers, singers or whatever you want to call them. Most of the performers at this year’s show I had no idea who they were and I’m not sure I’m supposed to (and at this point I’m too afraid to ask). Like from the original Lollapalooza 1991 lineup, I cannot imagine ever seeing Rollins Band at this version of the festival playing for this type of audience. That would actually be hilarious. The whole thing is extremely corporate now. If Metallica hadn’t been headlining I definitely wouldn’t have gone this year. I can’t see them getting the type of headliners to attract me in the future either.
To me, in my mind Metallica is still that band that I first fell in love with at 13-years-old. The reality is that band doesn’t exist anymore (or the people they were at that time either) beyond the nostalgia factor. It’s funny because on social media you’ll continue to see younger people still worshipping that ’80s period of Metallica and other bands like Megadeth even though it’s over 35 years old now. It’s kind of like someone from 1986 still listening to music from 1951 and doing that to those artists of that era. Metallica will always be important to me though. I still listen to them regularly.
The line process to actually get into Grant Park sucked. I got to the Lollapalooza area around 2:30 p.m. but didn’t actually get inside the park until after 3:30. I had to go through the pick up area to get my wristband, which was extremely slow for some reason. The line barely moved for what should have been a quick process. It would have been much faster if they allowed print outs of the tickets or an app on phones. I also don’t know why they use their stupid, unique wristband because it’s almost impossible to remove unless you cut your hand off with an electric saw or something. It’s a special, thicker wristband with a RFID chip inside it to scan at the entrances and can also be used to buy food. It locks so tight though that once the wristband is on it’s so annoying to get off. The ticket price for each day theoretically gets you to access to all these different performers and stages but realistically you’re only going to see a few of them. The price was kind of steep for a single show but it’s probably cheaper than seeing Metallica on their own or another band like Iron Maiden. At least with entrance into Lollapalooza you can get to the front of the stage without paying more.
At this show I discovered the joys of a fanny pack for the first time. Why didn’t I get one way sooner? These things are awesome. I was able to pack in a lot of stuff. I need to rock one more often. I also discovered Liquid Death makes water that costs $4 at a festival like this, which actually was pretty good.
The Metallica merchandise at the event was weak, which was disappointing. They had a big few tent areas set up for all the performer merchandise. I thought they might have had an area specific to just Metallica but they didn’t. I was expecting a lot more and wanted to at least get a shirt or a poster. When I saw them at Soldier Field they were selling a special t-shirt for Chicago of that show. All they had at Lolla were a few t-shirts that looked like you could get them anywhere. There was only one shirt that referenced the day’s show with the words “Metapalooza” or something like that in the form of the Lollapalooza letters but it was lame. I didn’t end up buying anything.
Before heading to the T-Mobile stage I made sure to get some food. They had a ton of food vendors lined up in a row in the center of the street/festival area. A slice of pizza cost eight bucks but it was actually really good. I figured since I would be standing in the same place for like seven hours I had to eat something. Afterwards I walked around for a bit and then went to the T-Mobile stage. Of course I had to be in the front and near the stage, or as close as possible to the front. I got to the T-Mobile stage around 4:15 and was able to inch my way closer to the stage during the performance that was going on.
The first two acts before Metallica were split in terms of quality. Still Woozy was the first performer I saw on the T-Mobile stage. It was absolutely boring and just brutal. The obvious pun is the dude made me actually woozy. I don’t know how people listen to this stuff, but then again I’m listening to bands talking about regurgitated guts and nuclear war so who am I to really judge. That type of music just isn’t for me but it must be for somebody because a lot of people were there for him. At one point he tried doing a “punk song” (in his words) that he claimed he wrote in five minutes for all the Metallica fans there and it was just awful. One of the Lollapalooza workers near the barricade was spraying the crowd with a literal squirt bottle like you would use to clean your house with. I guess because it was hot outside with the sun barring down on everyone. It was hilarious since barely anything was coming out and the way the guy was just deadpan squirting people. I was like, what’s that going to do? A little bit got on me, like a drop of water. Billy Strings played next. I had never heard of him before but he was actually really good. I guess he does what’s considered bluegrass. He played a song called “Heartbeat of America” that was pretty good. He’s a really talented guitar player and put on a fun live performance. It’s not metal or even hard rock but it’s good music. I ended up liking him a lot because of the guitar playing and the energy his group had.
I dunno how many people were actually there for Metallica that night but it had to have been in the tens of thousands. It was just a sea of people all the way to the back of the field entrance. It filled up pretty quickly once Billy Strings finished. I guess there was a VIP section in front of where I was and then another special section closer to the stage. When Still Woozy finished his set, most of the crowd left so I was able to get right up in front for the general audience barricade.
Metallica are old guys now. James Hetfield is 59, Kirk Hammett is 59 and Lars is 58. Even Robert Trujillo is 57, who is way older than I thought he was. They’re all playing thrash metal songs they wrote when they were like 22 years old. They were still good live though. How they do their live shows at these big stadium or festival events is a great first Metallica show experience. They really nailed that part down, from the production, to the stage, to the accompanied videos and graphics for each song to the stage presence of the band. The whole experience is actually pretty awesome for the fans. If you’ve seen them before it doesn’t have the same novelty though but it’s still pretty cool to be there.
“It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” by AC/DC played before Metallica came out and then their official, unofficial intro of “The Ecstasy of Gold” from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. They played 16 songs, with three of those being part of the encore. They started playing around 8:15 so it was starting to get dark outside. I really liked the stage setup, which also had an extended ramp going down the center for the band members to walk down and play on just inches away from the crowd. They even had a drum kit set up and microphones there for a few songs. The weather was great. The outdoor venue with the downtown Chicago buildings all around added a lot to the experience. Outdoor concerts are the best.
During the first three songs I was just trying not to get suffocated or squished to death. “Whiplash” opened the show followed by “Creeping Death” and “Enter Sandman.” These songs came together in a mixed blur of intensity from the crowd. Almost immediately, everyone got shoved forward. Since I was already basically right next to the barricade and squeezed next to a bunch of people before the music even started, I got squashed. It was just a sea of bodies being pushed around. I could tell a lot of people there hadn’t been to a metal or even hard rock show before because people were complaining about the moshing and all the movement. It’s like what did you think was going to happen? I could barely move for these first few songs. Those three songs are great way to open a show though. “Creeping Death” sounded really good live. The band were playing on the ramp closest to the crowd so it looked really cool with all the people engaged in the music. Everyone got into “Enter Sandman” since that’s like the one song most people know from them.
One long haired, metal guy who was trying to crowd surf near me fell all the way down to the ground because people just dropped him instead of continuing to push him forward. He came back up all filthy, his white shirt all covered in brown mud. Like I said, these people don’t know how to act at these shows.
After “Enter Sandman” the whole band went back to the main stage area. “The Memory Remains” sounded pretty good, which is the fourth song they played. I used to hear this on the radio all the time but haven’t heard it in forever. I liked hearing it live. They followed that with “Wherever I May Roam” and “Nothing Else Matters.” The tempo of the show changed quite a bit from the chaotic velocity at the start as people stopped going completely crazy and turned their attention and bodies towards the main stage.
This crowd for Metallica was weird, since it was a mix of the average Lollapalooza attendee, people who only knew Metallica because of Stranger Things, casual radio rock fans and then the hardcore Metallica people. That’s compared to when Metallica does a show on their own tour and a majority of the people that go see them there are hardcore fans. A lot of them at Lolla just wanted to hear the hits. A lot of them were also just there taking selfies and doing it for the Instagram clout of being at a show like this. They wanted to hear “Master of Puppets,” “One” and “Enter Sandman.” Those are the main ones. People standing around me made comments to that effect. It’s all the songs I first heard when I was 13 or 14 first getting into music. I didn’t see a lot of kids that age at Lollapalooza this year though. There were a lot of late teens and people in their 20s mixed in with older people who were probably their parents or something. A lot of Metallica fans were in the crowd too (identified by wearing their t-shirts) so it was a contrasting mix of people. There was a good number of metalheads there as well but not as many as you would see at a place like Riot Fest.
The setlist felt like it was for a more mainstream audience too. Obviously they aren’t going to break into a Mercyful Fate medley or whatever for this type of show. Most of the people there wouldn’t even know what’s going on if that happened. They ended up doing four songs just off the Black Album itself, which felt like a lot. Some of the songs they played I just can’t listen to anymore because I’ve heard them to death. I can’t really even listen to “Master of Puppets” or most of the Black Album because of that. They weren’t going to play songs like “Jump in the Fire,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Spit Out the Bone” or deeper tracks like those. At one point halfway through the set Hetfield did make a joke when talking to the crowd. He said, “Don’t go anywhere. There’s a couple more good songs. A couple. I know we played all the good ones upfront. You’re thinking, ‘what are they going to play now? They already played their good song. The one that I know.'” It was funny. It showed that they’re pretty self-aware and do know this type of crowd and the setting they’re at. Even the stuff from the Black Album they played were the usual radio songs. It would have been cool to hear songs like “Holier Than Thou” or “Of Wolf and Man” from that album.
Some of the band’s playing sounded off, like Kirk’s guitar parts. They did have some miss steps in some of the songs and obviously the tempos for some of the faster tracks were all a bit slowed down compared to the albums. If you have been listening to Metallica for a long time you would pick up on it but probably a lot of people there didn’t even notice. Hetfield’s singing and voice still sounded really strong live. They have improved a lot of their live performance quality in the last several years though, especially around the time leading up to the Hardwired era. Generally the band has sounded pretty tight and way better than they did in the 2000s.
James talked a lot between the songs, which I liked. James is still one of my favorite guys in music (or really anything) who I always looked up to. He said Metallica were very grateful to be playing at Lollapalooza again. He also went on to say the band were very blessed to still be up on stage after 41 years kicking the crowd’s ass and the people kicking theirs. It was what they were born to do. He was asking the crowd by a show of hands who was there for the first time and who had seen them before. Before playing their seventh song “Dirty Window,” he talked about St. Anger and asked one more question, “St. Anger?” with two thumbs up. He then joked and sarcastically said St. Anger again but with both thumbs down. “Let’s give it some love man. Give it another chance okay?” He laughed and continued saying, “This was the album that did not get the chance.” It was a weird talk for this setting given that this type of crowd has no idea what St. Anger even is because none of the songs are played on Stranger Things. The average age of this type of crowd isn’t going to know any of those songs, especially “Dirty Window.” If you’re a casual Metallica fan then you probably don’t know much about St. Anger either. When St. Anger came out it was everywhere and heavily promoted, so I don’t know what he meant by it didn’t get a chance. Most people just didn’t like it. “Dirty Window” actually sounded pretty good live but it felt so out of place on this show. After the song finished James talked to the crowd again and said, “Ahh, that awkward silence. I love that. It makes me feel so weird.” They went into “Sad But True” after that, which a lot of people sang with.
Looking back, I think St. Anger was actually the first Metallica album I bought, which unknowingly was a censored version at Walmart. St. Anger came out in June 2003 around the time I was finishing seventh grade and heading into eighth grade. I was just really getting into music with other bands like Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead and stuff I heard on the rock radio stations in Chicago. I was expecting the album to sound like the Metallica songs I heard on the radio but it was nothing like those. I secretly like the album and still do enjoy a lot of the songs on it though. St. Anger will always have a weird and special place for me but it’s easy to see why it seems universally hated. The production on it completely sucks. The drumming still sounds awful and like Lars is banging on a garbage can. There’s also the complete omission of all guitar solos. The album is a product of its time. All the mainstream bands of that era who were playing in a similar style have been gone and forgotten about for like over 15 years now.
I don’t know what all went into the decision for the style of that album but it was a big miss. There was even a 2004 documentary called Some Kind of Monster (taken from a song off St. Anger) that featured the band at that time almost imploding and having so many issues, to the point where they hired a therapist to work through everything and were filming this whole process during the album’s recording. I get what Hetfield is saying from an artistic perspective since he put a lot of himself into St. Anger but as it stands the album sucks. Unless they re-record it in the vein of their current live sound or the quality of Hardwired, it’s always going to be viewed that way. In the last several years when they play the songs from St. Anger live they actually sound pretty good. They even throw in guitar solos that weren’t on the original recordings. Songs like “Frantic” are still bangers too (“my lifestyle determines my deathstyle!”). Bands like Saxon (who I recently listened to, like their stuff on Heavy Metal Thunder/Classics Re-Recorded) and a lot of Metallica’s contemporaries in other thrash metal bands have re-recorded songs and even full albums. It might be cool for them to do that with St. Anger. I do think the lyrics on St. Anger are pretty deep and more introspective but the music that goes along with them just isn’t good in a lot of ways.
I was really surprised people even knew “Whiskey in the Jar” when Metallica played it as their ninth song. A lot of the crowd got really into it and were singing along. I doubt most of those people even know who Thin Lizzy are. Metallica covered that song during their weird ’90s period. I first thought this song must have been in a TV show or something. Then I thought many people are probably just going off the top Metallica songs from Spotify and that’s why it was so recognized by the Lolla crowd. Currently it’s their fourth (out of the top five) most popular song on their Spotify page with over 293 million plays. That number blows my mind. The song’s high ranking is weird to me too, especially give their big catalog of music and that it’s a cover song. I didn’t think it was that popular. They did “For Whom The Bell Tolls” as their 10th song. Rob and Kirk did their usual crab walk, dual playing thing on the ramp near the crowd. It’s still one of my favorite songs from them and sounded good live. “Moth Into Flame” they played 11th. The song had a lot of cool designs on the screen and some big pyro at certain points. It’s a pretty cool song from Hardwired and sounded good live. A lot of people around me seemed to know it too. Before getting into the second part of “Fade to Black” that leads to the guitar solos, the band stopped playing and James said the song was about suicide that they wrote in 1983. He said if anyone needed help then they should talk about it. That’s cool they stopped to acknowledge that given the opportunity in front of such a massive audience. Maybe it actually helped someone.
“Seek and Destroy” had really cool videos on the screen. At various points it featured posters for Metallica shows in the ’80s with other bands like Warlock, Venom and Metal Church. Just the weird contradictions of Metallica’s past roots with who they are now and and the types of crowds they attract nowadays is always fascinating. The crowd sang along a lot too. “Seek and Destroy” is always a great live song. That was the last song of the main setlist before they went into the encore.
I was a bit surprised they had a tape playing for the intro to “Battery” until they actually started playing with the fast riffing part near the beginning. Maybe that’s something they’ve always done. Some fireworks went off on stage when the band started playing, which was pretty cool. The song sounded good live. The crowd went crazy for “One” that they played right after. The stage also had a lot of cool accompanying scenes and lighting that went great with the song. After that they did “Master of Puppets” to close the show. During the song there were scenes from Stranger Things on the screen as the band played. It was a cool tie-in. I think a lot of people were expecting Joseph Quinn to come out on stage but he didn’t. I guess he was actually there though because they filmed some stuff with him at the event. The crowd got really loud for “Master of Puppets” even though it was the final song. When they finished playing, a bunch of fireworks went off in the sky. James was still on the ramp and looked up in like awe of them. The band stayed on stage for several minutes saying goodbyes and threw out a ton of guitar picks, with what seemed like a hundred of them. I think it all ended around 10:20 p.m.
During moments in the show I had feelings of disappointment as I stood there, like “this is it?” When I looked back on it though I think part of that was because I was tired from standing all day. The middle of the show for like six straight songs did also lose a lot of that high energy and momentum from the start because of what they played. That’s also what added to my feelings of the show. From “The Memory Remains” through “Whiskey in the Jar” the energy was a lot different until it picked back up again with “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” A song like “Whiplash” was a great opener and the latter part of the show was really good too. The encore ended the night on a high note. It was cool seeing the band perform with the backdrop of downtown Chicago and the huge crowd all around them. The show ended up being pretty good. After all these decades the band still plays these songs at a high level and deliver a great live experience.
Overall it was a solid performance with a good setlist for that type of audience. Bands like Metallica are still important. Yeah these guys sold out a few decades ago but it’s still fun seeing them perform or discovering their music for the first time. You need bands like them to get people even curious about the harder stuff. People usually just don’t wake up and start listening to European black metal one day after listening to whatever pop garbage is out at the time. There needs to be a bridge between that. There’s hardly if any current, younger rock bands at the mainstream level anymore so people have to look to the old stuff like Metallica, Queen, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, etc. to get that first exposure of rock and metal music.
Metallica really leaned heavily into the whole Stranger Things connection. The band and their team do a good job of staying in the mix and remaining relevant in pop culture. They probably got paid a ton of money to play this year’s Lollapalooza too. Metallica is pretty much like this corporate entity now instead of just a band. Collectively the Metallica brand is bigger than a lot of other entertainment names and certainly one of the biggest in all of music. It basically transcends all four guys in the band itself. They do put on a fun live experience for their fans and new people as well.
The walk back from the T-Mobile stage to the parking garage where my car was took forever. It took me almost an hour. The downtown streets of Chicago at night were filled with thousands of people just walking through them to get home. That was actually pretty cool. All the traffic was blocked off for several blocks and there was a heavy police presence. There were so many sketchy people selling things on the sidewalks, from bootleg Lollapalooza merchandise and wristbands to food to alcohol to just random crap. At one point I think I saw someone even selling Hare Krishna beads. One guy was selling shots of alcohol. I’m pretty sure you need a liquor license for that. He told some guy walking by that a shot goes good with pizza but he didn’t make a sale. I bought a slice of pizza from Bacci’s, which is actually the first time I ever ate from them. They had a little pizza truck there and a guy on the street yelling into a megaphone advertising it to everyone that walked by. The jumbo slice was kind of cold and wasn’t that great so it was a disappointing first experience. I’ve been wanting to eat from them for years and it just kind of sucked. They needed to keep those hot and ready but the size of the slice was legitimately pretty huge. I was super hungry though so I just ate the whole thing. I just sat on the curb and ate the pizza as I people watched everyone walking by.
Metallica are selling a CD of the concert on their website. More bands need to do that. It’s smart. I still have their 2017 show that I went to in my collection.
Truth be told I would love to see Metallica again and probably will. It was a fun night hearing these songs outdoors with such a gigantic audience.