BERLIN (Reuters) - Metallica frontman James Hetfield is out to recreate some of the magic of the 1988 U.S. Monsters of Rock tour in Europe this year, with a seven-date sweep of the region ending at Knebworth in England.
Metallica were well down the billing 21 years ago, when the heavy metal giants joined Van Halen and Scorpions on the road for more than 30 shows that lasted up to 10 hours and tested the eardrums, if not the patience, of the crowds.
Now one of the world’s most successful bands, with album sales of around 100 million, Metallica is spearheading a European version called Sonisphere and has lined up rock acts including Linkin Park and Slipknot to appear on stage.
More acts will be added and the concept could go global in 2010, although organizers said there were no firm plans as yet.
“We did Monsters of Rock in the U.S. with Van Halen, Scorpion and others and it was a lot of fun, you get to know the bands, you’re hanging out, staying in the same hotels,” Hetfield told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He added that it was different from a traditional band tour, although Metallica are doing that as well in Europe and will fit the Sonisphere gigs into current commitments.
“When the same bands get on the touring circuit together you get to see them more than once. It helps with the atmosphere and the vibe,” he said, adding that Monsters of Rock was “one of the funniest times I’ve ever had.”
The tour kicks off in Nijmegen, Holland, on June 20 and travels to Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland before a two-night finale in front of up to 60,000 at Knebworth, scene of many famous concerts over the last 35 years.
EUROPE‘S ROCKING SPIRIT
Hetfield believes Europeans’ attitude to festivals and travel differ to those in his native United States.
”The obvious one (reason) is the economy right now,“ he said. ”I also think in Europe and the UK a lot of the festivals are a right of passage for a teen and part of growing up.
“Parents wave goodbye as their son or daughter goes off to the festival where they may try drinking too much for the first time and are struggling in the elements. Americans are a little more cautious than that.”
Hetfield plans to travel in a little more comfort than most of his fans, however, saying that the band would be chartering a plane as “an investment in our sanity.”
Sonisphere boasts “all the usual festival madness, stalls, fun fairs, jugglers, fire eaters and general rock debauchery for a full-on festival,” organizers said in a statement.
Hetfield expressed some embarrassment at being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before some acts who were an inspiration for Metallica. Metallica will be made a member of the illustrious club on April 4.
“We’ve been nominated and we are still alive,” he said.
“It’s ironic that a band that has been inspired by all of these other ones are getting in there before them. We are going to go up there and kick some ass and kick the door down for some heavy bands that have not been recognized, like Rush and Kiss.”
Metallica have also put their name to an upcoming version of the successful “Guitar Hero” video game franchise.
While the band’s commercial concerns -- notably its battle with song-swap site Napster in 2000 and 2001 -- have alienated some fans, Hetfield said Guitar Hero was good for music.
“Any way that music can infect people’s lives, I‘m into,” he explained. “Music saved my life as a kid. It (Guitar Hero) is a new medium to get music out there.”