Bye Bye America (Hello Europe!) – The Final Show of the North American WorldWired Adventures
BY STEFFAN CHIRAZI
They came to Grand Rapids, Michigan in their fineries and fancy get-ups, their hearts heavy in the knowledge that this was the final North American show, yet fortified by the friendships and bonds created during these North American WorldWired legs. More than anything, they signed up for a journey and got back not just a ticket to ride all over, but a family and community which will last longer than any Metallica tour – even WorldWired! I am speaking of the Black Ticket holders, who through no fault or desire of their own, have become the undeniable core and heartbeat of these returns to classic old school ‘Tallica towns throughout the continent. Queuing up outside every venue at obscenely early hours, doing Planes, Trains and Automobiles journeys to get from gig to gig, braving elements which mocked normal elements, these bravest of the brave came to symbolize the North American WorldWired Tour in a way no one could ever have predicted. And as they gathered in the thin, sheeting rain for one last time outside the Van Andal Arena, they did so with equal measures of warmth and sadness, yet also celebration at what the last seven months have brought.
When this entire WorldWired adventure started in late 2016 (with the first single firing the words “we’re so fucked, shit outta luck” off the bough) little did anyone know just how prophetic those words would be in global terms. Yet as the world has become increasingly “fucked,” WorldWired has continued to juggernaut through from strength to strength, already hitting stadiums and arenas once around before coming back to North America’s “smaller” cities starting last September. And it feels as though these gigs – no events, because that’s what the North American WorldWired dates have felt like: Events with a capital fucking “E” – have increasingly become places for the ever-growing Black Ticket family to congregate and escape from said-world and all its attendant bullshit. It feels intrinsically linked; world bullshit quota goes up? Metallica’s WorldWired crowds get crazier, thicker, heavier, and more engaged with each other as both a lifestyle and an escape to good times with good people.
Make no mistake, the Black Ticket idea has created an even tighter community than anyone could’ve imagined. The Met Club has always been a hotbed of togetherness, but these road dogs have accumulated miles and stories which will both continue to be told and accrued for years to come. Thus seeing so many of them, from Norway to Brazil to New York to Mexico, show up in fancy dress, formal wear, and evening attire for this final North American tour night was quite something. Tonight the band also met Mike Mueller and Russell Forrest, the only two Black Ticket holders who made every single North American show (Mike was a very entertaining So What! Diary scribe last year) and the clear reverence from each towards the other was something to see, Lars in particular summoning his inner journalist to ask them each how they did it and express both gratitude and admiration. Already some others have planned to be Black Ticket holders for Europe and beyond… the lifestyle is real, and there is no doubt that the US Metallica fan base includes a couple of new generations of youth who will ensure that said- lifestyle continues in earnest.
The Van Andal Arena heaved with life and good spirits, and like all the North American venues before it, thousands upon thousands relished the opportunity to see Metallica again for the first time in decades. Behind the backstage curtain, I can genuinely say in all my years I have never seen the backstage corridors as full of people right before the guys went onstage, and equally, I cannot ever remember everyone being so “OK” with it. It’d be like a CEO walking into their office and finding it mobbed with people, but again, the vibe was decidedly warm and congenial, with the guys having more last minute chinwags before the sprint-to-stage than I’ve ever witnessed (team Stone Brewing was in strong attendance!).
The band have found rhythm, stealth, and magical muscle memory on these North American legs, pulling out a few rarities for cities which haven’t seen them in (some cases) decades, and this final gig saw a royal blasting of “Phantom Lord” as well as recent addition “Here Comes Revenge” (with Jess Cope’s excellent video art adorning the cubes). Hetfield has loved re-engaging with these towns, and his pride and pleasure was again abundant in Grand Rapids. Another highpoint was Rob and Kirk jamming Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” with James stepping up to provide enthusiastic vocals. I believe that the jam spot specifically has helped Kirk find a level of joy in his overall performance that pretty much supersedes everything he’s done live in the last 20 years, and North America has, in my opinion, witnessed some of his best-ever performances. Rob spoke enthusiastically of how much fun it has been to see an enthusiastic and engaged Kirk taking off on fire like this regularly. And the LU meter has been in fine fettle, on point, on target, and providing the vital platform for these shows to deliver all that that they have.
Earlier, “Honorary Black Ticket Metclubbin’ Family Members” Jim Breuer and Joe Sib did their final round of hosting, and as you will read in an upcoming SW! chat with Jim, he has found a new level of engagement and interaction with the fans. In fact, I can tell you that Jim seemed genuinely sad at the impending conclusion, and joked that he would find himself yelling for the bus call in his living room and asking where catering was.
As the minutes ticked down, as “Blackened” scorched another few minutes off the WorldWired North American run, as “Nothing Else Matters” glided into “Sandman,” signaling the final moments of ‘Merican performed Metallica music for a while, I reflected on the fact that as the world struggles to turn, Metallica has broken SEVENTEEN attendance records in North America, with a glorious blend of old-school and young-gun fans making up those numbers. So when I tell you how fucking strong this band is right here, right now, don’t take my measly word for it. Just look at the facts as they stand. Here are those records venue by venue.
METALLICA ATTENDANCE RECORD BREAKING SHOWS – NORTH AMERICA 2018/19
September 11, 2018 - Sioux Falls, SD – Denny Sanford Center – 12,447
September 13, 2018 – Winnipeg, MB – Bell MTS Place – 17,129
September 15, 2018 – Saskatoon, SK – SaskTel Centre – 15,806
October 16, 2018 – Milwaukee, WI – Fiserv Forum – 18,788
October 20, 2018 – State College, PA – Bryce Jordan Center – 15,588
November 26, 2018 – Las Vegas, NV – T-Mobile Arena – 20,428
November 30, 2018 – Salt Lake City, UT – Vivint Smart Home Arena – 17,574
December 2, 2018 – Spokane, WA – Spokane Arena – 13,184
December 7, 2018 – Sacramento, CA – Golden 1 Center – 17,281
January 18, 2019 – Tulsa, OK – BOK Center – 19,228
January 28, 2019 – Raleigh, NC – PNC Arena – 20,052
January 30, 2019 – Cincinnati, OH – U.S. Bank Arena – 16,587
February 28, 2019 – El Paso, TX – Don Haskins Center – 12,546
March 4, 2019 – Wichita, KS – INTRUST Bank Arena – 15,690
March 6, 2019 – Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center – 19,646
March 9, 2019 – Louisville, KY – KFC Yum! Center – 23,084
*also the highest attendance for the tour
March 11, 2019 – Indianapolis, IN – Bankers Life Fieldhouse – 18,274
Our night flight is about to land in Oakland, the end of this run officially signed, stamped, and sealed. Europe is on the horizon. Stadiums again. Rob and Kirk have already had a couple of little chats about the first few gigs in May, and I can hear tour manager Eric Johnson and Marc Reiter from management going over a couple of details regarding the run. One WorldWired ends, but another whole new WorldWired is about to begin. We are family…