Folks who have checked into this year's Summer Sanitarium have noted how all the opening bands are singing praises to Metallica. Limp Bizkit even cover "(Welcome Home) Sanitarium" and flash the words "Metallica is the sh--" onscreen during their set. Such over-the-top idol worship might seem a bit forced, but the headliners insist it's not. And the admiration goes both ways.
"The highlight for me is just the vibe between the bands," drummer Lars Ulrich said during the Philadelphia stop of the tour right after spending 30 minutes hanging out with Linkin Park. "Sometimes when you play these big places and everybody's doing a lot of press, you don't see each other as much as you like. But I'm digging trying to get up onstage and see other bands. A couple nights ago in Toronto I went up and sat behind John Otto [of Limp Bizkit], who's just the king sh-- drummer. All of a sudden they were playing 'Seek and Destroy' snippets, 'Master of Puppets' and then 'Sanitarium.' Sitting there and seeing him play Metallica stuff was just so cool."
The positivity of the tour is a touch surprising given the comments Deftones frontman Chino Moreno made in the August issue of Revolver about the other bands on the bill. He was especially critical about Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. "A big problem for me was opening for them — two bands that wouldn't exist if it weren't for me." But Moreno also took a stab at Metallica: "Metallica have a vast catalog, but live? Motherf----ers just stand there and play." Metallica frontman James Hetfield takes such jabs in stride.
"It's words on paper, that's all it is," he said. "You don't know where that came from or how out of context it was. It's stupid stuff. I think you don't take something like that personally. When someone talks smack like that, maybe it's insecurity or maybe something else is going on. And then you get on the stage and you play and it's kinda like forgotten about."
This year's Summer Sanitarium is Metallica's first road trek to feature bassist Robert Trujillo, who was recruited after the band finished recording their new album with producer Bob Rock on bass (see "Metallica Have A Bassist: Ex-Ozzy Player Robert Trujillo"). Even though Trujillo was used to festivals, having played for years with Ozzy Osbourne, the Sanitarium has tested his endurance.
"It's like running a triathlon or a decathlon in the Olympics, or like being in a caffeineathon," he said. "It's actually very physical. The stage is big like an aircraft carrier, so you have some of your cardio there, and depending on the temperature, it can be pretty challenging. Also, Metallica's music can be pretty fast and ferocious. They're pissed off, man. They scare me up there."
So far on the tour, Metallica have only played two songs from their new album, St. Anger, the title track and "Frantic" (see "Metallica, Limp Bizkit Set Off Musical Fireworks At Summer Sanitarium"). There's a reason for that. The musical passages were recorded in segments during jam sessions and were later cut and pasted to form complete songs. Recreating many of them live will require time and practice (see "What's Up With The Sound On The New Metallica Album?").
"Everybody's like, 'Why don't you play more than two songs from the album?' " Ulrich said. "It's like, 'Uh, as soon as we learn them we will.' "
"Frantic," the second single from St. Anger, will go to radio August 11. The band will shoot a video for the track in Canada in two weeks, Metallica's publicist said. A director and treatment have not yet been chosen.
For a full-length feature on Metallica, check out "Metallica: The 'mtvICON' Interviews."
—Jon Wiederhorn, with reporting by Gideon Yago