April 14, 2002
Today in Los Angeles, April 14th, MTV was taping their latest episode of "mtv:ICON." This show is a tribute to the legendary band Aerosmith. James, Lars, and Kirk were there to show their appreciation of the group and to give testimonials on what Aerosmith has meant to them as a band and as people. This was the first public appearance of Metallica since James Hetfield's exit from rehab.
The event was held at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, CA. On the way to the event I rode with Kirk and he was preparing his speech. I could see the excitement in his eyes: "Damn, I am running out of paper, I've got so many things I want to say." He was talking about how much of an impact Aerosmith has had on him and said, "I saw them in 1978 at the Day On The Green festival in Oakland and that changed my life. They blew everyone else on the bill away, including AC/DC and Van Halen."
Kirk getting his speech ready
After the band arrived it was time for a quick rehearsal. James was in great spirits and was very happy to be a part of this event. When he entered the tv studio he looked around and said, "This is such a cool setup. Look over there, the original Aerosmith logo! That is old school." The guys took the stage to rehearse their speeches. Kirk and Lars had theirs written down while James decided to write a few notes on his hand.
Kirk, James and Lars rehearsing their testimonials.
Kirk was the first one to hit the stage. He started off by talking about how much he admires Aerosmith and how much he has learned from them. He also mentioned the time he bought Aerosmith's Live Bootleg album that was recorded at the first show he ever saw with them. In his teens he used to show all his friends the poster that came with the album and point at the crowd in the picture and say, "That's me!"
Then it was time for Lars to hit the stage. He spoke fondly about the band and delivered a very heartfelt speech about the kindness and generousity of Steven Tyler. Back in 1993 he called Steven, whom he'd only met briefly on a couple of occasions, to ask him for a personal favor. One of Lars' best friends, Rich Burch, was dying of AIDS and the drummer wanted Steven to rub some of that Steven Tyler magic off on Rich, a guy that Lars said epitomized rock'n'roll on a street level. (The infamous quote "Bang the head that doesn't bang" on the back of the 'Kill `Em All' album sleeve came from Rich). Rich's biggest hero in life was Steven Tyler and after hearing about his illness from Lars, Steven jumped on the phone and called Rich. During the last few weeks of his life, Rich got to talk to Steven on several occasions and he would call Lars up and say how fucking amazing it was to get to talk to his hero. Lars said that he'll always be grateful for what Steven did at that time.
It was time for James and he started off by saying "This is the first time I have been on a stage since I came out of rehab, so I am a little nervous. My heart is pounding fast so let me know if I am talking too fast." He then began to continue with a smile. James' speech was very personal and he spoke about how much Aerosmith had helped him when he was growing up. He continued by saying how much they still inspire him, especially after going through a rough period in his life. After James finished, everyone in the studio, all the crew people and other artists, started to applaud. That was an amazing moment...
Kid Rock, Kirk and Lars
The show also included testimonials and performances from other people that Aerosmith inspired, such as Kid Rock, Pink, Papa Roach, Shakira and more. Metallica and their good friend Kid Rock shared the same dressing room facilities, which of course meant everyone having a good time. Other celebrities present at the event included Fred Durst, Pamela Anderson, Slash, David Spade, and Christina Applegate.
When Metallica hit the stage later that night, the sound from the crowd was LOUD. Everyone was thrilled to see the band again, and they made sure to show their support and give Metallica a big WELCOME BACK! The reaction from the crowd, especially after James speech, was once again overwhelming. I could sense that James was deeply touched and very happy.
Jay Leno and James
After their stage appearance, Metallica headed backstage to get to their seats and on the way they ran into The Tonight Show's host Jay Leno who wanted to say hi. Lars, James and Kirk went back to their seats to enjoy the rest of the night. During the finale, when Aerosmith hit the stage for a truly blistering performance, Metallica stood up and were singing along to some of the toxic twin's finest tunes. Of course they loved watching Aerosmith on stage, but at the same time I could tell that they missed performing as a band themselves.
Hey guys, long time no see!
(Check closely and you can see James' speech written on his hand)
The Aerosmith mtv:ICON show was definitely a great event for Metallica. It was great to see the 3 guys hanging out, laughing and in such great spirits. I have a feeling that the Metallica train is starting to roll again and we will hear more from them soon. Just before James left, he walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, "I had such an amazing time tonight". Or as the late Rich Burch would put it, "BANG THAT HEAD THAT DOESN'T BANG!!!"
Story & Pictures by Niclas S